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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020
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An Irish nurse meets ex-ISIS slaves: 'They put stones inside the cuts and sewed them shut'

I am only back in Ireland two weeks from spending time with women and children who survived ISIS torture, writes Eileen Carr.

Eileen Carr Nurse and volunteer

I AM AN independent Irish volunteer working full-time in Dublin as a clinical nurse specialist in child and adolescent mental health.

I went to volunteer in Iraq in April of this year after seeing the mental health needs of those fleeing Mosul. I spent from morning until evening in tented camps where hundreds of thousands of physically and psychologically injured refugees now live.

What they have endured in terms of witnessing beheadings, airstrikes and lack of food was beyond anything I had anticipated.

Escaped ISIS slaves

When I returned a few weeks ago it was to another area in northern Iraq where again there are tented camps housing desperately traumatised families. These are the escaped “sex slaves” of ISIS and their children.

I am only back in Ireland two weeks from spending time with women and children who survived ISIS torture. In trying to capture their experiences, through words and images, I am leaving much out due to the disturbing content. But we do need to listen to them despite how harrowing their tales are.

I bore witness to the effects of these atrocities and to the aftermath of lives that have to be started again. With little material support, and even more limited psychological support, it is almost impossible to know where to start rehabilitation.

Having seen the evil and witnessed the goodness of the victims, it is as great a challenge to understand the humanity as the inhumanity.

Art therapy

Drawing (1) Source: Eileen Carr

This fifteen-year-old’s artwork, which I was the first person privileged to see, tells of the ISIS captors (on the left) with their batons choosing which young Yazidi girl (on the right) they will hold as “slave” to beat, force to work, tie up, rape and torture.

She has endured three years of daily beatings, rapes and other degrading behaviours. Daily multiple rapes started on her thirteenth birthday. When she finally escaped she was overjoyed to see her family, but then slipped into a deep sleep for days.

We talked daily for a few hours. She would become exhausted and I had to keep in mind that, despite her urge to tell her story, she needed to be taken care of.

Brutal beatings

Mum and Daughter Source: Eileen Carr

The lady you see in this picture talked about her three years of brutality. She feels that it cannot be understood by anyone other than someone who has suffered similarly.

She said:

I could talk to you all night. I could talk to you for days. You are a woman too and so you can feel a little of the shame and degradation they put me through. But you could never really understand.

Her beautiful four-year-old daughter sat on her lap. Her mum told me that she was captured at the tender age of one. This tiny child was brutally beaten daily by their ISIS captors. She and her mum were “sold” as slaves many times.

Each and every ruthless “owner” beat this little girl and her mother, raping the mother several times daily. The mother said:

I look in the mirror and I see ugliness and feel less than an animal. My body feels dead and useless. At times I feel I am outside my body. I feel like I am not real.

Giving birth

Shilan’s birth was difficult and painful. Her captors simply split her open with a knife long before her mother could deliver her baby naturally. Two days later they started to beat her mum with sticks, thump her with their fists and kick her with their boots. No part of her body was spared.

They beat her till her man-made brutal episiotomy ruptured, causing massive bleeding. She was sold to ISIS slave masters eight times during the three years she was in captivity. They bargained about the best price for her and her daughter.

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I can tell you of her escape. I can tell you why she wants to stand in the International Criminal Court and give evidence of crimes against humanity and the genocide of the Yazedi people.

I can’t explain how Shilan’s mum has the strength to keep going. I can’t explain how her fragile body continues with minimal food, flashbacks, and worry about the whereabouts of her brothers, her dad and her husband.

Just seven years old and a slave for three years

Nadir is just seven. He escaped after three years in ISIS captivity. In these formative years he lived apart from his parents, was trained in the use of guns, and witnessed more brutality than he will probably ever be able to express.

His dad showed me his missing front teeth. I was a little puzzled as to why his dad was showing me this. Nadir, playing violent games on his mobile phone, was reluctant to let me see his gums. His dad explained:

ISIS tortured him when he was five and pulled them out of his mouth with a metal grip one by one. He told us that he was screaming in pain.

They then showed me raised scars on his legs. His dad explained:

They cut his legs to torture him. They put little stones inside the cuts and sewed them shut again. Even now we don’t know how many stones are inside.

Nadir is not able to sleep at night. He goes to sleep at 5 or 6am and prefers to take his naps during the day. His dad told me that it is because he was ISIS’s servant. He had to transport food during the night to ISIS security checkpoints, and they did not allow him to sleep. He did this for three whole years.

I make no apology if the content of this short article is disturbing. In fact, I am writing sensitively and with the greatest of respect. I am upset and outraged. We need to educate ourselves about the suffering of our fellow brothers and sisters. We all need to listen to their stories.

Eileen Carr is an Irish nurse, just back from volunteering with escaped ISIS slaves.

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About the author:

Eileen Carr  / Nurse and volunteer

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