Yazidi Girl Seeks Justice After Meeting IS Captor in Germany

Yazidi Girl Seeks Justice After Meeting IS Captor in Germany
German officials are investigating claims by a Yazidi girl that she was allegedly threatened by her former Islamic State captor in Germany, a spokesperson for that country's Federal Court of Justice told VOA. The girl, Ashwaq Haji Hami, has since left Germany.


Frauke Koehler, spokesperson for federal prosecutors at the Federal Court of Justice in Germany, told VOA that the matter is being investigated under international criminal code.


"The federal prosecutor would like to have asked the witness [Hami]. However, the witness had already left Germany when the federal prosecutor's office had taken over the investigation in June 2018," Koehler said.


Koehler added that Hami did not provide "precise information" about the suspect, which would have helped authorities identify him. However, she did emphasis that authorities are taking the claims seriously and would carry out their investigation thoroughly to bring those responsible for committing atrocities against Yazidis to justice.


Yazidis are a religious minority group predominantly living in Iraq. 


"Even the name [Abu Hammam] could not be traced back to a real person [living in Germany]," Koehler added.


Koehler also pointed out the challenge of investigating traumatized victims to collect the necessary evidence against potential culprits. 




The story


Ashwaq Haji Hami, a 19-year-old Yazidi girl from Iraq's Sinjar region, recently unveiled her encounter in Germany with a former IS fighter who allegedly kept her in captivity for several months in 2014. 


She identified the individual she encountered in Germany as Abu Hammam al-Iraqi, whom she claims she ran into twice in Germany where she settled in 2015 before going back to Iraq in 2018.


"I am ready to confront this man in court. I will do whatever it takes to have justice, even if my follow-up of the issue takes 1,000 years," Hami told VOA during a Skype interview Tuesday.


The first time Hami ran into her IS captor in Germany was in 2016. She said he had allegedly followed her all the way to her home. Initially, Hami found it difficult to believe that her former captor could manage to live in a country like Germany.


She was ready to move on and give the person in question the benefit of doubt. But she told VOA that things changed dramatically the second time when the former captor approached her in 2018 and talked to her, at which point she was no longer in doubt about the suspect being Abu Hammam.


Abu Hammam allegedly pulled over in a white car near her school and tried to talk to her.


"He spoke in German and asked me if I was Ashwaq. I denied [it]. He said that I am Ashwaq," Hami said. 


Hami added that she is not alone. Other Yazidi girls in Germany are also facing a similar situation where they saw their IS captors, but no one has come forward and spoken up about it because, she said, they are too frightened and doubtful people would believe them.


In IS captivity


This August marked the fourth anniversary of Sinjar massacre when IS militants wreaked havoc and attacked the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq, killing and abducting thousands of Yazidis.


According to the United Nations, out of an estimated 400,000 Yazidi civilians living in Sinjar, at least 10,000 were either killed or abducted during the attack. Over 6,400 Yazidis, mostly women and children, were enslaved by IS.


Hami said she was one of those enslaved by the terror group. She was 15 when IS attacked Sinjar and abducted her, along with dozens of her family members, including five brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins. She ended up with Abu Hamman from Baghdad, whom she alleges bought her in Sinjar.


She said she lived with him for six months in a village of Sinjar before she escaped and eventually made it to Germany.




Is Kurdistan safe?


Hami went back to Iraqi Kurdistan after she did not hear back from the German police. She is currently living in a refugee camp in Duhok with her father. Hami said she left Germany after she felt unsafe being in the same city with the man who once enslaved and raped her for six months.


Although she still fears for her safety in Kurdistan, she prefers being with her family.


"Half of Abu Hammam's family live in Baghdad, and he lives in Germany. Being here is not safer compared to Germany, but at least if anything bad happens to me, I will be with my family and not by myself," Hami said.


"During my captivity in Iraq, he always used to threaten me and tell me that he would follow me wherever I go," she added.


Genocide


The jihadist group regarded Yazidis as "devil worshippers" who must either renounce their religious views or die.


The United States, United Nations, European Union and Canada, among others, maintain that IS's all-out assault against Yazidis amounted to genocide.


The U.N. agency has said the situation of the religious minority remains desperate and that the perpetrators have not been brought to justice four years after the massacre, despite having been driven out of most of Iraq and Syria.


"The ideology of [IS] can only be truly defeated if survivors receive justice and redress for the crimes they have suffered, and reconciliation can only occur if the missing are found," Pramila Patten, U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said earlier this month.


Yazidi rights groups estimate 3,000 women and children remain missing, while thousands live under dire conditions in refugee camps


VOA's Kurdish service contributed to this report.