Accessibility links

UN: Victims of ISIS Abuse Need Support

A United Nations diplomat is warning girls against joining the self-declared Islamic State militant group. If the girls become members of the group, she says, it will be the biggest mistake in their lives.

Zainab Hawa Bangura is the UN’s Special Representatives on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She recently told VOA about meeting women and girls who have survived unspeakable abuses by the militants.

The Islamic State uses social media in its effort at persuading men and women to join the group, also known as ISIS. It urges them to reject their families and join their movement in Syria and Iraq. But many who do join soon discover it is not what they thought it would be.

UN diplomat Zainab Hawa Bangura has met some of those who regretted their decision.

“ISIS is a one-way ticket -- you go there and, you know, you can’t come out again.”

Ms. Bangura says that is especially true for women and girls. She says even those who voluntarily join ISIS are victims and need as much support as those who are kidnapped by the group.

Ms. Bangura recently visited refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. She met women who survived Islamic State kidnappings and sexual violence.

“When I came back I felt so heartbroken I just wept myself to sleep.”

The Yazidi community has been especially affected. A new U.N. report says the Islamic State group continues to hold as many as 3,500 Yazidis. It says they have faced physical and sexual abuse.

The diplomat says that when the kidnappings began, many of the captured Yazidi women killed themselves.

“I met a woman who actually was captured with 14 girls who actually mixed the poison and gave it to the 14 girls to commit suicide.”

She says others hanged themselves or cut their wrists. Some were sold repeatedly. The price for some women was a box of cigarettes.

Many victims turn to their spiritual beliefs to forget the violence because mental health experts and social services are not widely available.

Ms. Bangura says many of the younger girls just want to go back to school. She told them the best way for them to get back at ISIS would be to succeed in life.

I’m Jim Tedder.

VOA’s correspondent Margaret Besheer reported on this story from the United Nations. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

one-way ticket – n. idiomatic – permission to travel to a place but not back from the place

heartbroken – adj. filled with great sadness

poison – n. a substance that can cause people or animals to die or to become very sick if it gets into their bodies, especially by being swallowed

How are women who are victims of abuse supported in your country? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

Show comments