Liberated, Not Free: Yazidi Women after Islamic State Captivity

  • Citation: Vale, Gina. “Liberated, Not Free: Yazidi Women after Islamic State Captivity.” Small Wars and Insurgencies 31, no. 3 (2019): 511–39.
    • Topics:
    • Movements for Inclusion
    • Keywords:
    • Yazidi
    • Islamic State
    • genocide
    • gender
    • women
    • rape
    • slavery
    • violence

In 2014, the Islamic State (IS) group launched a genocidal campaign against the Yazidis in Northern Iraq. IS used varied means to attack and fragment the Yazidi community: massacre of men; indoctrination and training of young boys; forced conversion of families; and kidnapping, enslavement, and rape of women and girls. Academic and policy attention has predominantly focused on IS’ sexual violence and rape of young Yazidi women and girls. This has led to the accounts of other female captives – namely, older women and undivided families – being overlooked or undervalued, excluding important elements of IS’s broader strategy of persecution. This paper analyses women’s varied experiences of captivity to reveal a fragmented population of female captives and seeks to demonstrates that IS exploited Yazidism’s religious and sociocultural customs to ensure that the impacts of its genocide – for the women themselves and the wider Yazidi community – continue beyond liberation. It concludes that although progress has been made to cope with trauma, displacement, and abuse, the community remains both physically and culturally fragmented.