“I feel better staying in a refugee camp in Iraq than living in Germany.” Those are the words of a Yazidi teenager from Iraq, who, at the age of 15, was sold into sexual slavery and held captive by a member of ISIS. She eventually escaped to Germany but was shocked and spooked when she says she ran into her ISIS captor while walking along a street there. Fearing her life could be in danger, she returned to Iraq and is living in a refugee camp there.
Ashwaq Haji Hami — or Ashwaq Ta’lo, as she is identified in some reports — was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were captured by ISIS militants in Iraq in what U.N. officials have called a genocide. Thousands of Yazidi men were killed at the time as ISIS tried to establish its caliphated in the region, and many of the women and girls who were kidnapped were then sold into sexual slavery. Hami was 15 when she was purchased for $100, according to the Kurdish media outlet Bas News, Abu Humam.
Abu Humam, whose real name Hami said is Mohammed Rashid, also bought a number of other Yazidi women and girls. He subjected them to daily sexual abuse, Hami has said, where they were held captive just outside of Mosul. After 10 months, Hami managed to escape and reunite with some other family members — her mother and two of her brothers. Together, they were able to get involved in a refugee resettlement program and ended up in Germany. For three years, Hami has been living in Stuttgart, getting on with her life. But all of that changed while she was shopping in a supermarket in February in the town of Schwaebisch Gmuend, she said.
“Someone stopped me in my stride. It was a bearded man. I froze when I looked at his face carefully. He looked cleaner in European casual clothes and without his Afghan attire but he had the same scary beard and ugly face,” she said. I was speechless when he started speaking in German to me, asking ‘You’re Ashwaq, aren’t you?'” Hami recalled. “I was more than terrified.”
“Yes, you are Ashwaq and you know me very well. I am Abu Humam and you were with me for a while in Mosul. And I know where you live, with whom you live, and what you are doing,” Hami said he told her during the encounter on the street. According to the AFP, the man then proved he knew where Humam lived in Germany by reciting her home address.
Hami, who is now 19 years old, said she went to police, but was told they were unable to do anything because Humam is also a refugee.
“I recognized his face very clearly and whenever I see him I can recognize him … because of the beatings he gave us,” Hami told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “We saw him 24 hours a day. So anytime or anywhere I see him, I would be able to identify him.”
After the response she got from police, Hami said she saw it wisest to return to Iraq, which she did along with her mother and brother who are living with her in the shelter as well. “I am not ready to sacrifice my honor in Germany,” she told the AP. “If I was kidnapped or killed in Germany, who would find out who did that to me?”
Her father, 53-year-old Haj Hamid, who lives in a nearby shelter told the AFP, “When her mother told me that she’d seen that jihadist … I told them to come back because Germany was obviously no longer a safe place for them.”
According to the AP, federal prosecutors in Germany are investigating her claims and deny that they are unwilling to pursue the case. A spokesperson said that by the time the case had been referred to federal prosecutors, Hami had already and they were stymied in trying to get in touch with her. And they don’t currently have enough information about the ISIS militant to make an arrest.
Below, watch a portion of Hami’s interview with Bas News, a portion of which took place on camera.