I met her on a cold winter day in 2015. She was staying at the Şırnak Yezidi camp in southeastern Turkey, which had originally been established as a dormitory for mineworkers. The camp in Şırnak was one of the biggest Yezidi camps. When Yezidis had come to the mineworker dormitories, tents had been set up to provide additional housing.
Most Yezidis who fled the ISIS massacre and arrived in Turkey were first brought to this camp, and then dispersed to other camps in the region. There were around 4,500 Yezidis staying in the camp. There was even a colorfully adorned children’s center for the Yezidi children.
The camp officials and I visited each tent to deduce the needs of the residents. I also conducted meetings with Yezidi women. Having traversed mountains to arrive in Turkey, Yezidis believed that once they crossed over the mountains they would be able to board planes bound for Europe.
They thought that Europe was waiting for them. Camp officials were patiently trying to explain that half of Şırnak’s inhabitants had not yet boarded planes, and that Europe was not awaiting them with open arms. Patience was the best medicine in those days.
I met her in one of the dormitories. The inside of the dormitory building was a dark, dingy place. Cracks were visible all around. I had gone into a room on the second floor of the building. There were two old men, two women, and three babies in the room. One of the babies was in the crib, one was lying on the ground, and the third was walking around the room.
The beds were stacked in a corner of the room. In another corner, I saw a small gas cylinder that was heating up a pan. There was Tandoor bread sitting on a tablecloth spread out on the floor, and they were filling a tub with bread.
The woman was in her forties. As soon as she saw me, she started shrieking and crying. She was wearing a brown skirt, a black shirt, and a white headscarf. She was a tanned, beautiful woman. Her voice was shaking, her eyes were filled with tears, and she was trying to tell me something but failing.
Her name was Eide. She was sobbing, “they cut off my child’s head,” repeatedly, “they cut off my child’s head.” Eide was from the Şemal region close to Syria. The name of their town was Guhbel.
When ISIS came to Guhbel, they killed all of the men and took all of the women and girls. Eide’s family had a car, so they managed to escape. But when her son found out that those who stayed were being beheaded, he decided to go back to save the elderly. On the way, ISIS captured him, and they cut off his head.
ISIS displays the dismembered heads on its social media accounts. When I met Eide, she was staying in this camp with her son’s wife Gule and their three children who were 2.5 years, 1.5 years, and 1 month old, awaiting their uncertain future.
They beheaded thousands, raped thousands of Yezidi women, and sold them in slave markets. Assumed to be of no use, many women over 40 were buried alive. Some governments supported this violence, some granted ISIS radicals easy access to their borders, some turned a blind eye to the slave markets within their countries.
Small Yezidi children were sold across a broad region ranging from Mosul to Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. The world simply watched…
Four years have passed since these atrocities, since the genocide. All of the countries and governments that supported the atrocities and the genocide, that opened their borders, that turned a blind eye to the slave trade within their borders, that traded with ISIS have yet to be tried in court. But ISIS did not commit these acts alone.
Beyond a slow, palsied process ongoing at the United Nations, there have been no concrete sanctions or rulings against the states and governments that supported ISIS. ISIS continues to attack and kidnap women. Most recently, they murdered around 200 people in an attack on Süyeyde, and kidnapped a group of Druze women. After kidnapping them, they sent pictures to their families. And yet the world continues to watch…
The details of the atrocities that these murderers have committed reveal that their motivations are not only religious, but also a matter of seizing property, putting people in shackles, establishing a regime, invading, plundering, and enslaving. Monetary gain is always involved, as is pragmatism…
Not only Yezidi women, but also many other non-Sunni-Muslim women have been victims of this cruelty. Assyrians, Chaldeans, Christians, Kurds, Turkmens, Alevis, Shiites, Druze… These women no longer exist. They have no homes, their babies are no longer in their cradles, they have no food on the table, their loved ones are gone…
This 21st century crime against humanity has also encapsulates atrocities such as slavery, rape and systematic sexual torture.
Since we established the organization three years ago, the Platform for the Struggle for Women Held in Captivity has waged a tenacious struggle to ensure that women in ISIS captivity are found and rehabilitated, and that the perpetrators of the genocide are put on trial.
Our organization is also working to secure recognition of August 3rd, the date that the genocide began, as “International Day of Action Against Women’s Slaughter and Genocide.”
The truth is that as long as the ISIS mentality continues, women cannot be free. As long as the ISIS mentality persists, the future of Mesopotamia’s daughters, of Yezidis, Chaldeans, Assyrians, the Druze… will remain unclear. The issue is fighting against ISIS and its mentality everywhere.
Without losing any more time, democratic countries and international organizations, especially the International Criminal Court, must take action against the crimes against humanity that this mentality has perpetrated. As long as the supporters of this mindset are not dealt with seriously, neither the West nor the East will be safe, and no migration agreement will prevent refugees from traversing the Mediterranean to try to reach the West.
Let me finish with the words of a Yezidi family that was preparing to flee to Europe from southwestern Turkey, whom I met at the Diyarbakır Yezidi Camp two years ago, before it was shut down by government decree. Fueled by the anti-Yezidi rhetoric of the government, the Yezidi family’s fear of the Turkish government convinced them that if they stayed in Turkey, they could be slaughtered. Their escape route through the Aegean was very dangerous and we were trying to dissuade them from traveling. Before they left, they told me:
“Ms. Nurcan, we would rather be fish fodder than die on this soil, in this way.”
I hope they are still alive. But the fact is, as long as the world turns a blind eye to ISIS and ISIS’s mentality, these people will continue to be thrown from place to place, and they will continue to die.