A year after the German state of Baden Wuerttemberg opened its doors to 1,100 women and children, mostly Yazidi, who had once been ISIS captives, many former sex-slaves are reportedly making progress in recovering from the horror and trauma of their experience thanks to an ambitious program aimed at helping them heal and start their lives anew. Even now, new refugees, freed from the clutches of the terror group, are arriving there. One girl, 11-year-old Farah, arrived after having just been freed from ISIS. She was so traumatized, she won’t speak or eat. But the outlook may be positive for Farah, based on the progress made by some of the women who have been in the program for a while now.
NBC News spoke with Aveen, a member of the German program and one of an estimated 6,800 Yazidis who were kidnapped by ISIS in 2014.
“There was nothing they didn’t do to me,” Aveen said, explaining that she had been beaten, forced to consume drugs, and repeatedly raped. Aveen added that six members of her family are still missing, including two sisters, whom she fears remain in ISIS hands.
After Aveen escaped ISIS — in large part thanks to help from her captor’s wife — she reunited with her mother and two of her siblings in a refugee camp in northern Iraq. In the camp, she began suffering from panic attacks, nightmares, and bouts of crying. Due to her culture’s strict conservative values that demand women to maintain sexual purity, and lacking access to psychological care, she found herself unable to talk about her experience at all — not even with her own family. But then Germany offered her a two-year special visa to attend the program in Baden Wuerttemberg, and she says that her time there is beginning to help — at least a bit.
“I used to think I was the only one was that suffering from such a horrific experience,” said Aveen. “I thought I was the worst case, but being here with the other girls has made me realize, I’m not the only one who suffered.”
Another former ISIS captive, Ivana Waleed, has also made considerable progress and is seeking justice against her captors. Waleed, 21, told NBC News she saw one of her captors appear in a video online, and said that he was trying to blend in with innocent civilians near Mosul. “I’m ready to testifying against him anywhere,” she said, adding that the man sold her and many other women and children.
Dr. Jan Kizilhan, a psychologist and trauma specialist who has interviewed more than 1,400 of the women and children who escaped ISIS, also spoke with NBC News about the difficulties of treating people whose family remain in the hands of their former captors, as well as the horrific case of an 8-year-old girl who he said had been raped “hundreds of times.”
Watch video of Aveen and Dr. Kizilhan below.
Read the full story at NBC News.