Why history repeats for women

Each day, there is news on ISIS. Either, of their brutality or their capacity to raise money like a mafia.

One such report took me to the Amnesty International Report which describes horrifying accounts of physical and psychological assault on woman. Which takes me back to 1971, when women became alike victim of war.

Many, often doubt the statistics of 1971. Point them to look at IS situation for a second. It is not context or geo-political situation in focus for me. Simple fact—Women are being tortured (the word itself is nothing compared to whats happening there, just I have limited vocab).

I often say the numbers that are usually stated for 1971 is much less than the actual. Because of certain factors which can be seen first hand in IS atrocities. When society is dictated by honour, customs and inequality, the numbers will always be less, no matter how technologically advanced we become or how free the media works.

The report includes interviews of captive, released and escapees from ISIS. Between September and November 2014, an Amnesty International researcher in northern Iraq interviewed 42 women and girls who had escaped from the IS, and was able to contact four others, by phone, who remain in captivity. Amnesty International also interviewed scores of displaced Yezidis whose female relatives were or remain in IS captivity, Yezidi community leaders and activists, and medical and humanitarian workers. Several families have provided lists of names of their captive relatives, among them hundreds of women and girls.

Since August 3, 2014 thousands have been killed and taken hostage by ISIS. In a matter of weeks the IS carried out a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq. Up to 300 of those abducted, mostly women and children, have managed to escape IS captivity, while the majority continue to be held in various locations in Iraq and in parts of Syria controlled by the IS.

The victims accounts in the report are formal and gruesome. We often do not understand (we would never be able to understand the trauma they go through completely) because the words only convey specific image in front of us.

The document itself backs what I am trying to say here. Women are primary caregiver in our societal system (anywhere) and they care as well as suffer. As one victim describes, “They said that if we killed ourselves they would kill our relatives.”

There are many layers behind that sentence.

First let’s look at the customs. According to Yezidi customs, marriage with members of other faiths and sexual relations outside marriage are not accepted. Such practices are considered to be shameful for the whole family, and in the past women and girls believed to have had relations with men of other faiths have been victims of so-called “honour killings”.

After the first women and girls escaped from IS captivity in late August 2014, the Yezidi spiritual leader, Baba Sheikh, reportedly called on members of the community not to punish or ostracise women and girls who had been victims of sexual violence at the hands of the IS, or those who were forced to convert to Islam, and to welcome them back and support and care for them.

But that did not take away the taboo that the Yezidi society has been holding on for centuries. So, even though these women face torture, rape and care for their relatives, they can not be open to their relatives due to shame.

Many survivors of sexual violence, therefore, find themselves in a catch-22 situation. Their relatives are their only source of support, but because of stigma and shame, they do not feel able to share with them what happened, or to seek their help in accessing the services they urgently need.

This inherited problem does not go away even if you become educated or live in a different culture. That is reflected in the next part of the report:

Four women and girls said they had been held in the homes of two Australian fighters of Lebanese origin, one of whom was living with his Australian wife (also of Lebanese origin) and children. Most were in their 20s and 30s, some were older, and few were considerably older, up to mid-50s.

While many would try to put it in a way that sounds like fighting ISIS would be fighting Muslims, rather it is not. Many of the statements made in their DABIQ are often goes against Muslim beliefs:

one should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffār [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharī’ah…It is permissible to buy, sell, or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of…

And the customs vary with society even though the religion might be same. The customs worldwide possess threat to women in any unwanted situation like war, natural disaster etc. Such has been seen throughout history and that makes me feel disappointed.

In this 21st Century, when we can already say in 10 years we will be in Mars and where diseases are conquered and new achievements unlocked each and everyday, we can’t place woman equally among us. We can’t make sure they will have the same freedom a man has, that they do not have to be victims of ‘honour killing’. Then how can we make sure to have a sustainable future?


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