Branding the Yazidis as heretics, Daesh slaughtered thousands of men, abducted women and girls and forced boys to fight on its behalf. A new report shows that nearly 2,000 Yazidi children are still without the care they need.

Grandchildren of displaced Yazidi Nayef al Hamo sit on the back of a truck as they leave their home in Sharya town and head back to Sinjar following the pandemic and economic crisis near Dohuk, Iraq on July 3, 2020.
Grandchildren of displaced Yazidi Nayef al Hamo sit on the back of a truck as they leave their home in Sharya town and head back to Sinjar following the pandemic and economic crisis near Dohuk, Iraq on July 3, 2020. (Reuters)

Nearly 2,000 Yazidi children freed from the grips of Daesh in recent years are still trapped by psychological and physical trauma.

In a new Amnesty International report based on dozens of interviews in northern Iraq, the rights group found that 1,992 children who faced torture, forced conscription, rape and other abuses at the hands of Daesh were not getting the care they need.

"While the nightmare of their past has receded, hardships remain for these children," said Matt Wells, deputy director of Amnesty's crisis response team.

The Yazidis are an ethnoreligious minority numbering around 550,000 in their heartland of northwest Iraq before Daesh swept through the rugged region in 2014.

Yazidi children were forcibly converted to Islam and taught Arabic, banned from speaking their native Kurdish language.

To this day, child survivors suffer "debilitating long-term injuries" as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, mood swings, aggression and flashbacks.

READ MORE: Daesh committing genocide against Yazidis, says UN report

Deep mental scars

Yazidi children interviewed by AFP last year in a displacement camp in the northwest district of Duhok played aggressively, wore all black and spoke Arabic to each other, even months after they were freed from Daesh.

One of them, a ten-year-old girl, had threatened to commit suicide multiple times, her mother said.

Sahir, a 15-year-old former Daesh child soldier, told Amnesty that he knew he needed mental support to cope with his trauma but felt he had nowhere to turn.

"What I was looking for is just someone to care about me, some support, to tell me, 'I am here for you'," he said.

"This is what I have been looking for, and I have never found it."

READ MORE: Thousands buried in 72 mass graves across Iraq and Syria

'Accept our children'

Amnesty said access to education could help ease children back into society, but tens of thousands of Yazidis still live in displacement camps where schooling is irregular.

Many have also gone into debt from paying thousands of US dollars to smugglers to free Yazidi relatives who were held by Daesh.

Yazidi mothers forcibly wed to Daesh fighters are struggling to heal their own psychological scars, while dealing with the stigma of having children born to militia fathers.

"I want to tell (our community) and everyone in the world, please accept us, and accept our children ... I didn't want to have a baby from these people. I was forced to have a son," said 22-year-old Janan.

Many Yazidi women who were rescued from Daesh's last bastion in Syria over the last two years were forced to leave their Daesh-born children behind when they returned to their families in neighbouring Iraq.

"We have all thought about killing ourselves, or tried to do it," said Hanan, a 24-year-old Yazidi whose daughter was taken from her.

Mothers must be reunited with their children and no further separation should take place, Amnesty said.

"These women were enslaved, tortured and subjected to sexual violence. They should not suffer any further punishment," said Wells.

READ MORE: Yazidis plan a return to Sinjar where memories of massacre linger

Source: AFP