Meet the man saving Yazidi slaves from ISIS TrendyVoice

3 June 2016

Meet the man saving Yazidi slaves from ISIS




The bidding opens at $9,000. For sale? A Yazidi girl.
She is said to be beautiful, hardworking, and a virgin.
She's also just 11 years old.
This advertisement -- a screengrab from an online
marketplace used by ISIS fighters to barter for sex
slaves -- is one of many Abdullah Shrem keeps in his
phone.
Each offers vital clues -- photographs, locations --
that he hopes will help him save Yazidi girls and
young women like this girl from the militants holding
them captive.
Shrem was a successful businessman with trade
connections to Aleppo in Syria when ISIS came and
kidnapped more than 50 members of his family from
Iraq's Sinjar province, a handful of the thousands of
Yazidis seized there in 2014.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled their homes and
clambered up Mount Sinjar in an attempt to escape
the fighters; hundreds were massacred, while
thousands of women and girls were abducted and
sold into slavery.
Sold into sex slavery
Desperate -- and angered at what he saw as a lack of
support from the international community -- he
began plotting to save them himself, recruiting
cigarette smugglers used to sneaking illicit produce
in and out of ISIS territory to help his efforts.
"No government or experts trained us," he explains
when we meet in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
"We learned by just doing it, over the last year and a
half, we gained the experience."

So far, he says, his network has freed 240 Yazidis; it
hasn't been easy, or cheap -- he's almost broke,
having spent his savings paying smuggling fees.
For those who venture into ISIS territory, the stakes
are even higher -- a number of the smugglers have
been captured and executed by ISIS while trying to
track down Yazidi slaves.
But Shrem insists the risks are worth it: "Whenever I
save someone, it gives me strength and it gives me
faith to keep going until I have been able to save
them all."
In some cases, the smugglers follow clues in the
adverts or other tidbits of information they're able to
gather to find the Yazidis. In others, the hostages
themselves reach out and plead for help, offering key
details as to their location; a province or town they've
overheard mentioned, or a local landmark they've
been able to spot.
Once they manage to make contact, the prisoners are
told when and where to go to meet the smugglers
who wait for them in a nearby car. Depending on the
circumstances of the rescue, it can take days or even
weeks to get safely out of ISIS territory, switching
from vehicle to vehicle, and waiting in safe houses.
Children as bomb-makers
Dileen (not her real name) is one of those rescued by
Shrem and his team of smugglers.
She was separated from her husband when ISIS
militants overran Sinjar province. The last time she
saw him he was being marched away, hands up, with
the other men from their village.
She and her children were taken to Mosul with the
women and girls. "They separated the ones who were
really pretty, and made us remove our headscarves
to see the prettiest ones," she says.

They were moved from place to place within ISIS
territory: Mosul, Tal Afar, Raqqa, and finally to
Tishrin, where, she says, she was sold to an ISIS
fighter, who raped her repeatedly.
"They forced me, and they threatened my children,"
she says, recalling the five months she spent trapped
in his home.
ISIS claims the Quran justifies taking non-Muslim
women and girls captive, and permits their rape -- a
claim vociferously denied by Islamic scholars.
While Dileen was used as a sex slave, her daughter
Aisha (not her real name), who is just seven years
old, was forced to work late into the night, in the
basement of their apartment building, assembling
IEDs for ISIS.
"I used to make bombs," says Aisha, quietly, playing
with her hair. "There was a girl my age and her
mother. They threatened to kill [the girl] if I wouldn't
go and work with them," she told CNN.
"They would dress us in all black and there was a
yellow material and sugar and a powder, and we
would weigh them on a scale and then we would heat
them and pack the artillery."
An ISIS militant, she says, would then add the
detonation wires.
Escapees 'can't forget'
Dileen was terrified Aisha would be blown up, or that
-- if the family was still being held captive by her
next birthday -- she too would be sold as a sex slave.
So when the ISIS fighter she now belonged to left to
go on a military operation, she spotted a chance to
escape. She called Shrem and asked him to help
them flee.
"We got to a phone with the help of another woman;
we got in touch with Abdullah."

Shrem's phone number -- memorized by his relatives
before their phones were confiscated by ISIS -- has
been passed around among captured Yazidis, who
know he will help them if he can.
"I begged him to hurry up and get us before my
daughter turned eight, because they would take her."
Shrem told her to meet someone from his network at
a nearby mosque the following day, then spirited her
and her children out of ISIS territory.
A year on from their rescue, Dileen -- now living in a
refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan -- says she is still
haunted by what they went through: "I can't forget
what happened."
Her husband is still missing, feared dead, but Dileen
insists that "for my children, I have to survive."
Plea for international action
Shrem's own sister is another of those victims, who
managed to get in touch with him from behind
enemy lines.
"For eight months, I didn't hear anything from her,"
he recalls. "Then she called me from Anbar.
"There was a wife of an ISIS fighter who gave her a
phone and said, 'Maybe you will be able to save
yourself.'"

She was able to give him a vague description of her
surroundings; eventually he was able to pinpoint her
location and get a message to her.
He saved her and her youngest son, five-year-old
Saif, but so far hasn't been able to trace her two
eldest sons, who were sent to ISIS training camps, or
her 13-year-old daughter, who was taken away to be
sold.
Thousands of Yazidis remain trapped inside ISIS
territory, and Shrem fears time may be running out
to save many of them from radicalization. He is
calling on the international community to take
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. We are abandoned."
Brainwashed by ISIS
Months on from his rescue, Saif still shows the after-
effects of months of ISIS brainwashing.
"When Saif first got out, he was like a wild thing,"
Shrem recalls. "We couldn't really talk to him. He was
still applying the ISIS mentality -- that everyone is
the enemy.
"The ISIS fighters would take him to Sharia school ...
they would teach him that jihad was the best thing in
life."

When Shrem asks what he'd rather play with, a ball
or a gun, he doesn't hesitate: "A gun," he insists.
"They put this in their heads," Shrem says, sadly.
"That there is nothing better than a gun."
Trained to kill 'infidels'
Fellow ISIS captive Dilshad, aged 10, underwent the
same brainwashing. His mother Samira (not her real
name) says he was being groomed to be an ISIS
executioner.
While his mother and siblings were held captive, he
was taken to an ISIS training camp.
"They said, 'We are going to the camp to train to
fight with the Islamic state,' [there were] little and
big children [there]," Dilshad explains.
"We were running and we read the Fatiha [the first
chapter of the Quran] and they wouldn't let us drink
water. They said it was so you can be trained."
Samira was horrified when she overheard the
family's captors talking about the promise Dilshad
showed. Weeks later, they were sold to another
militant. It was Dilshad he wanted.
"[He] was a butcher, he would kill people, he would
slaughter them," Dilshad remembers. "He said, 'now
you kill them with a pistol,' but I said 'I can't kill.'
"He said 'OK, next time you will kill them.' I said 'Why
are you killing people in front of me?' He said 'So you
learn.' He killed people with a sword... he said they
are infidels.

"The first time I saw them kill in front of me I was
very scared, but then I wasn't as scared as the first
time."
Dilshad says the ISIS militant told him he was like a
son, and urged him to kill members of his real family:
"They said to me, 'your father is an infidel, if you see
him kill him.'"
Radicalized teens 'nuclear bombs'
Samira says that, over time, her son grew attached to
the executioner.
"My son didn't threaten us, but he asked me 'What
would you think if I kill?' I burst into tears. I said 'How
can you kill innocents?'
"I couldn't stop crying; he hugged me and said 'I
won't kill anyone, I will listen to you."
After more than a year in captivity, Samira and her
family were rescued before ISIS militants could turn
Dilshad into a killer.
Saif and Dilshad are the lucky ones -- they are safely
out of ISIS hands -- but many others, including Saif's
brothers, remain inside their territory.
Every family has someone who is missing, presumed
dead, and there is little or no psychological support
for those who have managed to get out.

"What I am most worried about are those who
finished the Sharia [school] and the training, they are
fully brainwashed," says Shrem.
"I consider each of them to be a nuclear bomb that
will come and target the Yazidis."




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