PARIS (AP) — Foreign fighters, including many Europeans, took a leading role in carrying out the Islamic State group’s atrocities against minority Yazidis, an international human rights group said Thursday, citing testimony and documentation from survivors of an organized system of killing and enslavement.
In a report, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights emphasized how foreign fighters led organized rape and slavery devised by the Islamic State group’s Iraqi hierarchy. It said the actions amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, and called for the extremist group’s members to be prosecuted as war criminals.
In one online chat room, an Islamic State fighter offered to trade a Yazidi captive for a pair of Adidas sneakers. Another offered his gun. The group not only bought and sold Yazidi women and girls, but also young boys who would be taught to fight and indoctrinated to turn against their own people.
“For the survivors to speak, to testify, is not an easy thing. It puts their lives in danger and it puts their story and their lives in public and nobody wants to do that,” said Nadia Murad, co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She was among thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority who were kidnapped and enslaved in 2014.
“But because it’s important for us to make sure justice is done, it’s important for Yazidis, survivors have come forward and spoken about their stories,” she added.
The rights group believes around half of the estimated 6,800 Yazidis taken captive are still missing. Women and girls from the minority who escaped described an organized system of slavery overseen by high-ranking foreign fighters.
In 2016, The Associated Press reported that Islamic State had devised a system of photographing Yazidi girls and women, and had created a database both to prevent their escape and to facilitate exchanges between members of the group.
Islamic State members in general face terrorism charges in quick trials in Iraq. The rights group wants them tried before an international tribunal or brought home to face charges, and for Yazidis to have a role in the reckoning.
Despite the testimony from hundreds if not more Yazidis of the horrors they endured on a massive scale, Murad said there had yet to be a trial involving the crimes against Yazidis.
“The end goal for all of us is to make sure justice is done and to prosecute those who committed crimes against us,” she said. “We will continue to fight until justice is done.”