Afghanistan Reopens the Wounds of a Trafficked Yazidi Woman

Saturday 4 September 202110:37 am
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أفغانستان تفتح جرح شرائي واغتصابي

This is the story of a Yazidi woman in her thirties called Hala Khalaf. I was able to reach her by phone, through some friends of mine who work in the administration of the refugee camp she lives in - the Bersevi camp in northern Iraq.

At about the same time, in broad daylight, bearded scowling faces set on violence began their invasion; they were the Taliban. Oh how they resemble ISIS, with their short robes stained with the blood of their victims - the stains taking the shape of their victims’ bodies. With their weapons, they break into homes and invade parks, trying out how peaceful it feels sitting on children’s amusement park seats. They ride bicycles and roam the now-empty streets and alleyways, devoid of people who are terrified of them. They gouge out eyes, and amputate limbs with paint in the photos inside women’s beauty salons. I watched as people rushed to the airports in terror and panic, hoping for a little bit of space on board the American planes that betrayed their hopes and dreams, and left everyone drowning in a dark reality where life neither lives nor dies - the blind taking cover behind their own executioners.

I froze in place when I saw the photos and videos of the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan. The memory follows me wherever I go. These are the same events that took place in our devastated village of Kocho, in Shingal (Kurdish for Sinjar). Today it is happening again in Kabul. How similar in pain they are: Shingal and Kabul. My wound is still deep. Me, the 30 year old Yazidi woman, bleeding once again. From the moment I saw what was happening in Afghanistan, the tragedies of Shingal have awakened in me, the very stories that death will tell. A man will lose his son, and fall into darkness and heartbreak. And that young man will absentmindedly try to scratch his amputated leg, the result of an explosive device that had been planted by someone in a moment of drunkenness. Bereaved mothers will embrace the ones they have lost, with empty hands wrapped around nothing but themselves. I fear for the women of Kabul and other cities from kidnapping and captivity, just like what happened to us in Shingal at the hands of ISIS. The sounds of weeping and the echo of the clanging of our chains obsessively hover on the edges of my mind in stifling detail. I remember how we chained Yazidi women were lined up like stone statues for display. Within my soul I see the wrists and heels of Afghan women bleeding in the same chains that tied us as captives, and the grief of our past echoes within me. I hear screams calling for me from there, from Afghanistan, and I feel sadness and helplessness. I see these intruders reclining on sofas, choosing beautiful women, and selling them in the markets, like they sold me in the Syrian city of Raqqa. They laugh, but then a verbal quarrel breaks out amongst them as they disagree over our selling price. It ends with them agreeing on either the cheapest price or the most expensive one, depending on our age and how beautiful our bodies are. I try to escape from the cruel past, from the 3+ years I lived in captivity, from the faces of the four men who bought me and raped me. But I fall again into a black abyss, as black as the dark turbans of ISIS, just like the color of the turbans of the Taliban. Scenes that bring back to my memory how my husband and children were lost in the darkness of the turbans of ISIS.

How similar in pain they are: Shingal and Kabul. My wound is still deep. Me, a 30 year old Yazidi woman, bleeding again. From the moment I saw what was happening in Afghanistan, I relived the tragedies of Shingal

Today, I see how Afghans will be lost in the same darkness. For days, I have been trying to distract my mind and imagination from what is happening in Afghanistan. I run away from their photos, just so I can have some rest. But the pictures of the two men hanging and then falling from the American plane in an attempt to flee from the Taliban, reminded me of the fall of our neighbor Khodr from the car that he had taken to escape from ISIS when they entered Shingal in 2014. I saw bullets raining down on him and raising dust that hid him from my eyes, before they arrested him along with everyone that was with him. They were taken to a prison in Mosul, just like we were, and then to Raqqa.

It pains me greatly to remember my ten-year-old daughter, who was torn away from my arms. I heard, a year after she was kidnapped, that she was a captive of some ISIS emir, and that was the last I ever heard news of her. I still have her blue bead hanging from a chain around my neck. Maybe it will light up a path for her, and bring her back to my arms. I wonder if the Afghan girls will be taken captive by the filthy savage monsters of the Taliban, or will they be married off and end up in the same misery that my daughter now lives in?

And my two lost sons, I wonder where they are now. Did they recruit them, or did they kill them? Their unknown fate, from that day, breaks my heart. How great is the pain in my chest. Will Afghan mothers wait, like me, for the hopes that pave the way for the return of their lost sons?

I wonder: will the darkness of the Taliban’s clothing stain the colorful clothes of the Afghans? Will the woman turn into an impurity that tarnishes the pureness of life, and the children into soldiers who act out scenes of forced murder? Afghan men will be unable to defend their women and their children, just like the Yazidi men couldn’t. And their lives will end with a single shot from a member of Taliban just because he wanted to get his hands on one of their wives, or wanted to recruit their children.

I try to escape from the cruel past, from the 3 plus years I lived in captivity, from the faces of the four men who bought me and raped me

Sometimes, I cry when I remember the ISIS militants, and their wives, as they beat me because the food I made for them was salty. I stare at the picture of my husband, who was killed as soon as they came into our house as he tried to shield us with his emaciated body. I sit and complain to him about my current situation in the refugee camp that lacks the most essential aspects of life in northern Iraq. I tell him about the men who sold me, and bought me unjustly, and when they removed my head covering and measured the length of my hair. I tell him about our kidnapped daughter, and our two lost sons who I know nothing about up till this very moment. I ask my husband in the picture I’m holding to help me draw the features of our children, and their height that have changed with time. I wait for some miraculous coincidence that would make me happy and bring me together with them. I erase their drawings and redo them every once in a while, as if they are growing up in front of me. Suddenly my husband turns into the last time I saw him, lying, a dead body on the floor of our home, the moment ISIS stormed in.

Every night I see the same nightmare: my husband steals a star from the sky, and presents it to me with a hole in his head from the bullet of the scary ISIS militant I will never forget. I wonder, will we even be the same in nightmares, for beautiful dreams fade away as long as they live in Afghanistan. They will end up in the camps built by organizations bearing slogans and badges for the countries that support their violence in secret, but bearing the ugly games of the children of the camps out in the open.

The sad faces of Afghan mothers come to my mind, and I see them conversing with pictures of their missing loved ones, with the same tragic endings, and the same painful beginnings. The darkness of the Taliban’s thinking is no different from that of ISIS. Both of them beat universal and international laws, with photos and videos that go around social media platforms and in full view of the world, without them moving a single finger against them.

One day the Afghans will know that they and the Yazidis are the wreckage of the supporters of the same weapons who burned us all to ashes, to become ashes blown away by the decisions and meetings that will commemorate our dead, and the agony of our endless reality.

I am waiting for what will happen in Afghanistan, and I feel that what happened to me will color their news bulletins with their red breaking news bar. Only, it will be with different names, since we are only their mirrors and reflections - mirrors that exceed expectations in every way.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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