Lamya Haji Bashar was captured and sold to sex slavery by the Islamic State (IS), but she managed to escape finally during her fifth attempt.
Lamya is a Yazidi teenager (18) who had lived her childhood happily on a prosperous wealthy family farm in a Yazidi village of Kocho in northern Iraq. She had gone to school, worked hard and had a goal to become a teacher.
But the village residents, about 1800 of them, were told by IS to convert to Islam or die.
Then, on August 2016, a large force of black-clad men stormed the village. Lamya and her family, her father, two brothers and three sisters were among those captured with almost entirely of the whole residents.
The men, including her father and brothers were murdered shortly after and the women were split up; married women and younger children were taken to nearby Tal Afar, while unmarried women and teenagers were sent to Mosul. Older women were shot dead the next day.
In Mosul, the captives women were forced into a big building filled with hundreds of similar-aged Yazidi, Lamya later understood that it was a market for militants to buy sex slaves.
Lamya said, “Men came all the time to choose girls. If someone refused to go, they were beaten with cables.”
“It was so painful to see these old men, these monsters, attack the girls. Even girls of nine and ten were crying and begging not to be attacked. I can’t describe how horrible it was,” she said.
A Saudi man bought Lamya and one of her sisters then brought them to the IS stronghold of Raqqa, keeping them handcuffed much of the time. “He was a very bad man,” Lamya said, “He beat us for the three days we were with him.”
“There were about 40 fighters who abused us. You can’t imagine this – two small girls at the hands of so many monsters. Terrible things happened to us.’
Then the girls were sold to different fighters, for about £100 (S$176) each. Lamya ended up with an even more brutal man from Mosul.
She tried to escape five times, after the fourth time she was kept by a surgeon, who made her run errands in his hospital. Eventually he gave her a mobile phone to summon her, but she managed to use it to contact an uncle in Kurdistan.
Lamya was being held near the Kurdish front line at that time, and her uncle paid $7,500 (about S$10,775) to a smuggler to take her out. She tried to escape the fifth time nine months ago, walking through the night with Katherine, another teenager from Kocho, and Almas, a nine-year-old girl.
However at around 4am, Katherine unknowingly stepped on a mine, killing her and the nine-year-old. Lamya didn’t remember much after the explosion, but Kurdish soldiers carried her to a hospital, where doctors who treated her wounds were forced to remove one of her eyes. Then her uncle came for her.
Luftbrucke Irak (Air Bridge Iraq), a charity that helps children and terror victims took her to Germany and funded two more operations for her, restoring some sight to her left eye, and a laser treatment to soften her facial scars.
Lamya told her full story to Ian Birrell, who wrote for Daily Mail, in Germany.
Once, after she was captured from an attempt to escape, Lamya stood defiant on the berth, while blood poured from her mouth and nose, and her body was covered with bruises. This time she had been caught leading a breakout of several other girls seized by the terror group.
Lamya recalled the judge in Mosul’s sharia court stared at her and made his ruling, she reiterated, “He said that either they must kill me or cut off my foot to stop me escaping.”
Lamya answered, as The Daily Mail quoted her, “I told the judge that if you cut off one foot then I will escape with the other. I told him I would never give up. So they replied they would keep on torturing me if I tried to escape.”
The EU’s top human rights award – the Sakharov Prize 2016 – honored the courageous 18-year-old girl’s determination last month, together with Nadia Murad, another Yazidi sex slave survivor.
Lamya wants to restart her studies and go to university. But at present she speaks out to remind the world that 3,600 Yazidi women and girls are still enslaved by IS.
Lamya opened a Facebook account, where she attempted to tell the world of the barbaric act still carried out by the IS. She posted the report of her interview published by the Daily Mail on this web page.
“These people wanted to eliminate my people and my religion but we will survive,” she said, “My job is to tell those women and girls that they are not alone. And we will demand justice for those monsters who hurt us so much,” Lamya said.