*Below is a true story from a young Yazidi woman named Sazan. Sazan was trafficked and a former sex slave to ISIS soldiers. She has communicated her story to the director of the Safe House that World Compassion is helping to operate in Kurdistan, Iraq. Aside from translating, the only thing we have changed is Sazan’s name and the removal of other names for safety and confidentiality.
We warn the story is somewhat graphic, so reader discretion is advised. We feel it’s important to share the stark reality of what these ladies have experienced and share that the Yazidi people are not Muslims, thus the reasoning behind their persecution from ISIS. Sazan’s story is an example of why it’s critical we continue taking the message of Jesus into nations that are hostile to the Gospel.
My name is Sazan, and I was freed from ISIS sexual slavery in March of 2016. Upon my return, I spoke to no one other than my family for days. I had suffered unspeakable things – things I could not even bring myself to tell them; however, now I want to share my story, and I want to share it with you through those I have met who are helping me. I want to share my story with you because you are helping me and others like me in my country. You must know our stories.
I had lived with my husband, my 13-year-old son and our 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, before I was captured. My husband and I were in the garden of our one-story house with our three children. I had been preparing lunch, and we were just getting ready to eat when we heard the sounds of gunfire and loud shouting coming from the direction of the village school. The men guarding the village had been overwhelmed and abandoned the field. Our city had been taken.
Shortly after ISIS entered the village, the head of the village spoke over a loudspeaker to the entire community, telling us ISIS had surrounded the village and demanded that all Yazidis must convert to Islam within 3 days or face death. We were trapped in our houses, too afraid to go outside. We didn’t have food or water. We were drinking our tears.
On the third day, the voice called over the loudspeaker again, telling people to bring all of their belongings and come to the school, telling us ISIS was going to take us safely to the mountain. Reluctantly, more than 2,000 villagers slowly emerged from their houses in their family groups, driving their cars to the school. As families walked into the school, ISIS fighters came to collect all of our money, valuables, and IDs. Then they split the families into two groups. Women and children were taken to one side of the courtyard, and men and boys with hair on their face were taken to the other side.
They said over the loudspeaker that they were taking the men to the mountain. They put them into trucks and carried them some distance away. A gully was located near the school, and the men were forced into it. They were required to give up any gold or valuables on their persons. Again, ISIS told the men to convert to Islam or they would be shot. They refused. The men and boys were all shot dead, including my husband.
They took all of the women and children in trucks to a Muslim village. All of the captives were put into a big building with many guards. They returned late in the evening to take the boys away. My older son was taken away, but my younger, 12-year-old son was left behind. They said they would teach the older boys the Islamic religion, but everyone knew their purpose was to brainwash them to make them child soldiers. I fought, holding my son tightly, but they hit me with their rifles and ripped him from my hands. The anguish watching the tears on his face, hearing his screams as he was taken away, was absolutely unbearable. All the other women and children were crying too as their sons were taken away. Again, we drank our tears.
The ISIS fighters returned a second time to take the young girls to sell as sex slaves. I had been hiding my daughter behind me in hopes they would not take her. I was able to hide her, but the other young girls were put in trucks, and we didn’t see them again. The three of us spent the night together without food and water, grieving and not imagining there ever being an end to our grief.
The next day the older women were separated from the younger, including my mother-in-law, and the children were grouped. They told the old women to get fresh air, and they took them outside. As my mother-in-law moved to leave, I wasn’t able to say goodbye.
They were loaded into the same trucks that had carried the men away and driven to a nearby field. ISIS fighters dug a large trench in the dirt with a big excavator. They grouped the elderly women into the trench, pushing those who resisted. They did not give them another opportunity to convert to Islam or waste bullets on them. The operator of the excavator simply fired up the machine, picked up large buckets of Iraqi soil, and dropped it on top of them, burying them alive. Some would have died from the crush of the weight on their bodies, some from the bodies falling on their bodies. Others struggled under the soil, unable to move, unable to breathe, suffocating. The young women watched this with horror on their faces, their hands over their mouths, afraid to cry out. I couldn’t stop crying and could hardly breathe. I couldn’t believe what the other women were telling me.
The fighters loaded all of the remaining captives into four big trucks and took us to another city. I was still hiding my daughter in my clothes. We were taken off the trucks and ushered into a school building. There they allowed the mothers of the boys who had been taken to speak to their sons over the phone. My older son said he was okay, but that he had had only one meal that day. They brought the boys back the next day, as they could not be controlled or made to stop crying. The boys were allowed to stay with their mothers for a handful of days. We stayed twenty days in the school.
The ISIS fighters entered on the twentieth day and told the captives they were going to send each of our families into the house of an Arab Muslim family. My three children and I stayed there for four months, along with several other Yazidi families. We were forced to learn Muslim prayers, and we were told to read the Koran, although we did not read Arabic. We all knew that ISIS was coming into these homes to take away the girls and women for sex. I cooked and cleaned in the home for four months, never being taken by soldiers, but my children stayed in a separate room, and I was not allowed to see them as I worked.
After that, they took us to another city. By the time we arrived, we knew that we were in Mosul. We stayed for nearly a month in a big hall, being given food and water once a day, not knowing what would happen to us.
Many men had been milling about the group, choosing which families they wanted to buy. They appraised us like livestock, like animals. Each family was sold as a group, rather than being separated and sold individually. We were moved again after that, loaded into three large trucks covered with plastic and taken to Raqqa, Syria. The journey took the entire day, from the morning until late night, and we were given no food or water on the journey.
In Raqqa, we were taken to a farmhouse near a forest, and separated according to the buyer who held our names. Nearly every day, the younger and more beautiful women were taken by soldiers, sold by their traffickers to older, Muslim men.
After a few weeks, an Arab sheik, a leader, came to the farm home. That day, my boys were taken away from me to be put in a training camp as child soldiers. I fought the men who pulled my sons away, crying and pleading, but they were indifferent to my screams. The boys screamed, all of them did, but the men fought and bullied them along to the trucks waiting outside, and they drove off. I never saw my sons again.
ISIS soldiers told us we would be sold next. We would be sold to soldiers – a reward for their bravery of fighting the Yazidi people. To them, we were things, not humans. One day a man entered the hall alone, saying nothing, and took me and my daughter to a marketplace in the middle of Raqqa.
A man, tall and thin, dressed in all black clothing, bought my daughter and me. He took us both into his house, handed me a bag of medication and pointed me to a man, disabled and disfigured in the room. He had been injured by an American shelling. The first man wanted me to clean him of the urine and feces he was covered in. He told me this man was to be my husband, and I would care for him and give him the medication he needed from the pain of his injuries. I refused but the tall man beat me and forced me to kneel by him. As I began to clean him, I vomited. I started laughing aloud, and for a moment I was insane.
I was overwhelmed with the grief and the fear and the horror, and a part of me retreated inside of me.
The first man grabbed my daughter and forced her to take white pills that drugged her, and he began to tie her hands and legs. I fought him, begging him not to rape her. I pleaded with him, clawing and scratching and screaming as loud as I could. In retaliation, he beat me and my daughter with a rifle. We were black and blue all over our bodies, lying on the floor. Then he did it. In front of me, he raped my daughter as I lay there.
Immediately after raping my daughter, he began to pray in the Muslim tradition toward the East, rising and bowing to the floor repeatedly with great piety. My daughter couldn’t move for three days.
Soon after that, the second disfigured man raped me, under the control, facilitation and watchful eyes of the first. The next day, and the next, and the next, for months, it was the same. Then my daughter and I were separated and sold to other men. I did not see her again. I was resold from man to man in a series of horrific and ongoing rapes.
I was eventually able to escape, but my daughter, my sons, my mother-in-law and my husband were not. I do not know where my children are today, and a part of me is missing without them. Though I am free, a part of me too has retreated and died in that place. And I drink my tears.
These details, these stories and these women, just like Sazan, are real. We want to share their stories with you to try to bridge the gap between their world and ours so that we may begin to understand and empathize with them – to see them not as a project, but as women created in the image of God.
As these ladies begin the restoration process, old wounds are just beginning to heal, while other wounds are just beginning to be uncovered. The scholarship cost to sponsor one of these 28 women for one month is $750 (£656)/month. During the six month program, these women will not only receive counseling, but all of their daily living needs will also be provided – needs like food, toiletries, transportation, skills training and much more.
We need your support today. Please pray about and consider what you can give to help support the recovery process for these women. Your gift will literally change their lives. The encouragement and the love of Christ that will be shown to them will undoubtedly transform their hearts and minds.
God has given us an opportunity to show His love and bring Him glory by entrusting us with the care of these ladies. Will you join us?