As Iraqi forces close in on the militant-held city of Mosul, a support centre for women and girls in Dahuk is gearing up to receive women and girls who have been held captive and sexually assaulted.
The next one who comes is sadder than the one before it. You see nine-year olds who have been raped and you see the most brutal and humiliating treatment for them.
Most of the women are Iraqi Yazidis who’ve suffered abuse under the hands of Islamic State militants since they swept into the area two years ago. So far, more than 800 have sought medical and psychological therapy.
Dr. Naam Nawzat, is a gynecologist at Dahuk Women and Girls Support Centre:
“It’s hard. It is very difficult, it’s beyond my capabilities. It has been two years that I have been taking on these cases. Everyone is destroyed. I have not seen one case better than the other. The next one who comes is sadder than the one before it. You see 9 year olds who have been raped and you see the most brutal and humiliating treatment for them.”
One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was held captive for a year and three months and sold five times before finally escaping in September last year: “What happened was enough. We were enslaved and I was sold to 5 different men. I was just trying to find a way to get out of there. I tried three times to commit suicide so that they couldn’t touch me.”
She adds says she suffers from depression but coming to the centre has helped her overcome her anger.
“I come to the doctor because of the anger that I have. I can’t handle anything. Not even my little daughter.”
Ramanathan Balakrishnan, is the UNFPA Representative for Iraq: “The whole world knows about the violence that has been suffered by young women and girls at the hands of ISIL (the Islamic State group). However, that is just the story that makes the news. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done to ensure that each and every one of these survivors is able to get her life back.”