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Elderly Yazidis speak of ordeal at hands of ISIS | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An elderly Yazidi arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS, on January 17, 2015 (AP Photo)

An elderly Yazidi arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS, on January 17, 2015 (AP Photo)

An elderly Yazidi arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS, on January 17, 2015 (AP Photo)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) transported hundreds of elderly and sick Yazidis captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to the city of Dahuk in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region on Sunday, after they were unexpectedly freed by the extremist group.

The group, totaling almost 400, was captured in August at a settlement near the town of Sinjar. The exact manner of their release remains a mystery, however.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mahma Khalil, a Yazidi commander from the Peshmerga, denied the freeing of the hostages was due to a deal between the KRG and ISIS, or internal wrangling within its ranks.

“Most of those freed were elderly and many are suffering from illnesses. ISIS simply no longer has the necessary logistical capabilities and resources that would enable it to keep them captive,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The group that was transported to Kirkuk yesterday were 196 [strong] out of a total of 375 that the extremist group had freed,” he added.

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to some of the survivors, many of whom were suffering from disease or malnutrition, about their ordeal at the hands of the jihadist group, which has gained worldwide notoriety for its brutal treatment of prisoners.

Khato Olo, 70, said the group had separated able-bodied men from the elderly, the sick, and women and children.

“They took our male youths and our men and we still don’t know where they are,” she said. “As for the women, children and young girls, they took us to Tal Afar [west of Mosul]. There were 20 of us women, and we were imprisoned in a school. We were then taken to Badush prison [near Mosul], and then returned to Tal Afar once again, where we stayed for around two months. They [the ISIS fighters] would attack us daily and they raped the women and the young girls. They would withhold food from us for days and committed terrible crimes toward us.”

The group was then taken to Mosul where ISIS took the young girls, women and children to Syria, leaving only the elderly behind. “They took my two daughters and their girls. The group has in total taken nine women, young girls and children from my family to Syria. I still don’t know their fate” Olo said.

Before they were released, ISIS took the 200 elderly individuals to the Syrian–Iraqi border. They then changed direction to head back into Iraqi territory. Alton Kobri, some 22 miles (35 kilometers) south of Erbil, was the captives’ first stop after their release and their entry into Kirkuk province in Iraq.

Shiro Haji, 90, told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS had taken three of his young granddaughters. “One of them committed suicide by slitting her wrists,” he said. “The others were taken to Syria.”

“We spent a total of six months in ISIS’s prison, where we were subjected to every form of torture imaginable. I was imprisoned along with 2,500 other Yazidis at the [ISIS’s] Nineveh province headquarters. They killed whomever they wanted to kill and also raped the women,” he added.