The gradual deterioration of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria has allowed for the liberation of families that had been held by the terrorist group since its expansion in the two countries over 3 years ago. The Yezidi people, in particular, have been targeted specifically by ISIS due to their intolerance of the non-Muslim religious-ethnic group.
Imad Tamo, a 12-year old Yezidi boy, had been kidnapped by ISIS militants after the terrorist group gained control of the Sinjar district, which is home to the largest proportion of Yezidis in Iraq, in the summer of 2014. His family remained oblivious to the fate of the boy and resorted to a variety of means to look for and find him.
Imad’s family then received news from other Yezidis that he was eventually found and freed by the Iraqi Security Forces. The security forces then returned him to his family and his mother, who had taken refuge in Canada, was informed.
There have been several cases of Yezidi men, women and children being abducted by ISIS elements over the past 3 years. Many of the children that were kidnapped were sold into slavery and became culturally assimilated into the new families that they joined. This has caused distress among certain Yezidi families who now have their children back as the children have lost their mother tongue in many cases. In addition, several Yezidi children were forced to join the “Cubs of the Caliphate”, ISIS’ division of child soldiers.
Yezidi women have among the hardest hit by ISIS’ discrimination. Many were held in captivity by ISIS militants as sex slaves, leading to traumatic consequences for the women. Nevertheless, some Yezidi women have been provided a channel of resistance as they join the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have a women’s branch Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). These units are currently combatting ISIS in Syria in the attempt to liberate the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital in Syria, from elements of the terrorist group.