Amel, 17, a Yazidi from Sinjar held hostage by ISIS last August, is reunited with Perez, a women’s activist from Iraqi Kurdistan who has been helping her adjust to life after she escaped from ISIS captivity in Fallujah on 25 August. She was held along with another Yazidi girl, Jwan. Both girls were raped, hit, and forced to convert to Islam. Now she lives in the Khanke camp for displaced Iraqis near the city of Dohuk. Iraq. February 12, 2015.

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Amel, 17, a Yazidi from Sinjar held hostage by ISIS last August, is reunited with Jwan, 18. The girls escaped from ISIS captivity in Fallujah on 25 August. Both girls were raped, hit, and forced to convert to Islam. Eventually, the used a knife to break down the door while the ISIS emir holding them was out fighting and fled to Kurdistan with the help of local taxi drivers who took pity on them. The girls meet in a camp for displaced Yazidis near the northern city of Zakho, as ISIS still holds t

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Amel, 17, meets Yazidi religious leader Baba Sheikh in Sheikhan. . sinjar, Mosul, Iraq. February 13, 2015.

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Amel, 17, a Yazidi from Sinjar held hostage by ISIS last August, is reunited with Perez, a women’s activist from Iraqi Kurdistan who has been helping her adjust to life after she escaped from ISIS captivity in Fallujah on 25 August. She was held along with another Yazidi girl, Jwan. Both girls were raped, hit, and forced to convert to Islam. Now she lives in the Khanke camp for displaced Iraqis near the city of Dohuk. Iraq. February 12, 2015.

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AMAL

One Yazidi girl’s story of hope and recovery after captivity and abuse

We followed Amel (fake name), a teenager held hostage by ISIS, on a journey of discovery from her home in a camp for displaced Yazidis to Lallish, the Yazidi religious center, and then to Mount Sinjar, on the road recently recaptured from ISIS by the peshmerga.

 

For Amel going to the mountain was a kind of homecoming and reminded her of everything she was forced to leave when she was taken last summer. ISIS, which still occupies her hometown, killed her brother and hundreds of other Yazidis and kidnapped thousands of women and girls as they swept into Sinjar last August. Amel and her friend Jwan were taken to Fallujah and held by an ISIS emir as sex slaves. He raped them and forced them to convert to Islam. They escaped using a knife to pry open the locked door.

 

This is a story of hope (‘hope’ is also the word she chose as an alias in Kurdish) and recovery after captivity and abuse. Amel’s bravery, humor, and sense of adventure are inspirational. Our story follows this remarkable young woman as she deals with the stigma of sexual abuse and forced conversion on a unique journey to regain control of her life.

 

Writer Cathy Otten and Ali Arkady