Abdullah Shiem owned a successful business in Aleppo, Syria, when ISIS militants kidnapped 50 of his relatives from Iraq’s Sinjar province — among the thousands of Yazidis seized and sold into slavery in 2014.
Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of international support and intervention, Shiem’s focus turned to rescuing them himself. In Arwa Darwon’s ISIS in Iraq documentary, airing this weekend on CNN, Shiem is seen scanning ads, looking for clues, on an online marketplace used by ISIS fighters to procure sex slaves. Starting price for one 11-year-old girl? $9,000.
Sometimes, hostages reach out themselves, offering any details they can that might hint at their location. So far, Shiem says, his network — made up partly of cigarette smugglers who had established access to ISIS territory to sell illicit produce — has freed 240 Yazidis. One woman interviewed, under the pseudonym Dileen, shared her experience of being sold to an ISIS fighter, who raped her repeatedly over five months. Her 7-year-old daughter offered an account of working late into the night in the basement of their apartment building, assembling IEDs for use by ISIS insurgents. Dileen feared her daughter would be blown up, or become a sex slave when she turned 8, and took an opportunity to reach out to Shiem, whose number had been memorized by relatives and passed around in the Yazidi community. “I begged him to hurry up and get us before my daughter turned 8, because they would take her,” Dileen said.
Shiem even rescued his own sister, and her 5-year-old son, but was unable to locate her two older sons and 13-year-old daughter, who was taken to be sold as a slave. He continues to work tirelessly, and is desperate for the international community to take decisive action. “If it was 50 and not 5,000 Europeans that were being raped every day by ISIS, would Europe stay silent? Of course not. There would be operations … everything would be done to save them.
“But 5,000 Yazidis being raped, the children trained and turned into walking bombs, and no one does anything,” he laments. “We are abandoned.”
Read the full story at CNN.