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ISIS Terror: Yazidi Woman Recalls Horrors of Slave Auction

One Yazidi woman, held captive by ISIS, recalls members of the terrorist organization calling prisoners "infidels" and saying "we will do what we want with you."
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DOHOK, Iraq — Farida says there were 80 girls in that large room in Raqqa, the ISIS capital in eastern Syria. They were all about to be bought as slaves by ISIS fighters. She remembers the girls wept — and the men laughed.

The slave auction lasted for several days. The men would come into the large room to pay an ISIS official and then take away one or two or three girls each. Farida, 19, doesn’t know how much money she was sold for and, until we showed her a video on an iPad, she had never seen a slave auction from the perspective of the buyers.

Farida stared at the video of about a dozen ISIS fighters. The militants laughed and cracked jokes about their sexual prowess, the older ones saying the younger men weren't ready for all the fun they were about to have with their personal sex slaves.

We asked Farida: “Is this how they behaved? They were laughing and happy?”

“Yes. Exactly,” she said. “They were very happy.”

Farida recognized two of the men in the video, one with long hair and a man sitting next to him on a couch. “They came to buy girls. I saw them there,” she said.

She didn't know their names — but Farida realized this wasn’t just any day at the slave auction in Raqqa. It was her day on the dock. The men were joking about buying and abusing her as well as her friends, classmates and cousins. Farida couldn’t take her eyes off the iPad.

"They came to buy girls. I saw them there."

“I see this and I don’t think of my case, I think of all the girls, because they would do everything to them,” she said. “We want justice."

Farida and the other girls in the ISIS market are Yazidis, members of the small religious minority in northern Iraq that ISIS has targeted for extermination and enslavement.

Farida was captured in August when ISIS fighters took over Kuchu, a Yazidi village with a population of less than 2,000 near the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq. Kuchu was already surrounded by ISIS fighters when the U.S. started bombing last summer.

Survivors tell NBC News that ISIS fighters entered Kuchu on August 3, stayed for several days, and eventually separated the men from their families. The men were then driven to the groves outside of the village, lined up and shot. Villagers estimate that around 500 men were executed. ISIS militants dragged away hundreds of Kuchu’s girls, women and children. Farida ended up in Raqqa, where she was sold as a concubine. Over the course of the next several months she was raped, beaten and starved. She says more than half of the 80 girls in the slave market in that room in Raqqa were from Kuchu.

Kweida was also taken from Kuchu. She’s a 12-year-old.

“We were surrounded. They told us to convert (to Islam), but we wouldn’t,” Hweida said in a halting voice. She spoke so quietly it was hard to hear her. “They took us to the school in the village and separated the men. Then they took us away."

Hweida also ended up in Raqqa, where she was bought by a 50-year-old ISIS militant. She says he promised to treat her like his own daughter. But at night the man would lay with the pretty young girl with wide eyes and long dark hair. Hweida didn’t know what rape was, but she would wake up with blood between her legs.

Eventually, Hweida and Farida escaped when their ISIS captors weren’t looking.


Farida is a strong young woman with a loud voice, thin lips and a prominent nose. She was determined to resist ISIS from the very beginning. She paid a heavy price for her refusal to obey.

On the night Farida was bought at auction by a Libyan man who called himself Abu Atheer, she broke a piece of glass in the bathroom and slashed her wrists. It was her first of what would be seven suicide attempts.

Bleeding and unconscious, Abu Atheer took Farida to an ISIS infirmary, where she recovered for five days. She was then locked in an ISIS prison reserved for unruly Yazidi slaves.

“There were four other girls,” she said. “It was so dark, we didn’t know if it was day or night. We were locked up and they constantly beat us.”

Abu Atheer was furious that Farida had tired to kill himself before he got to enjoy her, so he sold her to an Iraqi ISIS fighter. Before he could rape her, she tried to hang herself with her veil.

“Three times I tried to hang myself, to be strangled,” she said, putting her hands to her throat.

The Iraqi man was also angry and sold Fardia on to a group of Libyans. They eventually moved her to an outpost by a gas plant in the desert outside the city of Deir e-zour in eastern Syria. They told her she would never escape the desert. The Libyans were brutal. Fadia says she was unable to hold out and was raped by several men over the course of the following two months.

“We said we are human beings. They said, 'You are our property,'” she said. “They said, 'You are infidels. We will do what we want with you.'”

“They said they preferred the young ones. They would say the older ones know a few things, the young ones know nothing.”

At the camp, Farida’s reluctance to have sex brought her frequent beatings. One beating left her unable to walk for days. She tried to kill herself again by slashing her veins.

At the desert outpost, Farida says, she lived in a trailer with seven others. The women were not only used for sex. They did the fighters' laundry, cooking and cleaning. The trailer wasn’t locked. Surrounded by desert, the fighters were evidently confident the girls couldn’t survive an escape.

Hweida, just 12, wasn’t passed from one fighter to the next like Farida. Instead, Hweida was kept with the same 50-year-old man. She lived in a house in Raqqa. Farida says the ISIS fighters prized the younger girls and were at pains to part with them.

“There are girls younger than her (Hweida),” she said. “They raped girls who were 9 or 10 or even 8.

“They said they preferred the young ones. They would say the older ones know a few things, the young ones know nothing.”


Farida’s captors were wrong to assume she wouldn’t try to escape again. One night she left the door of her trailer slightly ajar. The ISIS militants, she says, were “busy” with two of the other girls. The remaining six in the trailer decided to make a run for it. Opening the door as quietly they could, they slipped out and started walking into the desert. It was already dark and rainy, which Farida believes helped give them cover. The six women walked through the night, unsure where to go. When the sun rose, they hid in an abandoned house and stayed there until the following night without food or water. They set out again under the cover of darkness, but by now one of the girls, whom Farida estimates was not older than 12, was getting sick. She was exhausted, dehydrated and couldn’t walk any further.

The girls knocked on a door — not knowing if the house belonged to an ISIS fighter.

“The man who answered said, ‘Go away, we can’t help you.’ But then his son said, ‘Let them in, maybe we can make some money from them,’” Farida explained.

Farida and the others stayed at the house for three nights as the owners contacted their families and demanded tens of thousands of dollars for their release. The families, with help from the Kurdish regional government, paid a negotiated amount. A truck was sent and Farida and the others were brought to safety.

They are now refugees near Dohok in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq known as Kurdistan.

Hweida’s escape plan was even less thought-out than Farida’s. Hweida simply wandered out the door one night and kept walking. She walked alone for hours in Raqqa, a city she didn’t know until she knocked on the door of a home. The residents inside also returned her to extended relatives in Kurdistan in exchange for money. Hweida lives in a refugee camp.

Both Farida and Hweida are now being helped by a German funded charity called Wadi .They have found an anchor and guardian in one of group’s aid workers named Ciman Rashid. She said the girls have been making progress despite their ordeal.

“When Hweida first came out of ISIS captivity she was speaking incoherently, talking constantly without making sense for two days. Then she stopped talking entirely for two months. Now she’s getting better and speaks a little. She’s starting to have more trust,” Rashid.

The girl’s village, Kuchu, is still held by ISIS.

The two girls who were with Farida in the trailer at the desert camp — the ones “busy” with the ISIS fighters, giving Farida and the others chance to slip away — tried to escape the next night. They were both shot.