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Free at last

As civilians flee Mosul, escaped women share stories of repression and horror under ISIS

By WITW Staff on November 21, 2016

Thousands of civilians have fled the besieged city of Mosul, Iraq, amid intense fighting there in recent weeks, and women who have escaped the city have torn off their veils and begun relating stories of an oppressive regime that sought to reduce women to prisoners in their own homes. Not allowed to venture outside on their own, women and girls as young as nine were forced to wear head-to-toe gowns, gloves, and two layers of face-covering veils that some women said restricted their vision so severely that they would trip and fall to the ground repeatedly while walking.

“I want to take this niqab and stuff it down the throat of ISIS,” said Amina, an older woman. A 17-year-old named Howazen, who was married in Mosul earlier this year, recalled being forced to wear the black garment over her white wedding dress. With street celebrations and music banned, the occasion proved a somber affair. “I wanted a perfect wedding,” she said. “But I cried all night. There was no one there, just our immediate families. Not even our neighbors. It hurts to remember.”

Iman Iraqi, 21, said she had set up a home business doing wedding makeup for brides. But then the religious police confiscated her equipment and made her sign a pledge not to re-open the salon — or else her brother would be lashed. Not all women were treated equally, Iraqi added. Two months after shutting down her beauty parlor, an ISIS fighter arrived at her house with a demand. “They forced me to go to a house to put makeup on an ISIS bride,” Iraqi said.

The women who had it worst of all, however, were those held captive, whom ISIS fighters treated as sex slaves — most of them Yazidis. According to a pamphlet found in a liberated town near Mosul, a captive woman was “just a possession, and you can do whatever you want with them.” The pamphlet also addressed questions such as: “Can I have sex with a slave who hasn’t reached puberty?”

Iraqi, who is now at camp for displaced people east of Mosul, says her best times in Mosul were when she climbed onto the rooftop with her neighbor and best friend. “We would meet every night. We would fantasize about the day when Mosul will be liberated. We would say, ‘Tomorrow is the day, tomorrow is finally the day Mosul will be free.'”

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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