For the first time in the Netherlands, someone has been charged with a crime against Yazidis, an ethnic and religious minority whose members were mass murdered or kidnapped by IS in 2014.
31-year-old Hasna A. is one of twelve Dutch IS women who were taken back by the Netherlands from the Al Roj detention camp in northern Syria in November and who were due to appear in court in Rotterdam today. According to the judiciary, she had a Yazidi woman as a slave. The woman is suspected of slavery, a crime against humanity.
Mirjam Blom, press officer at the Rotterdam Public Prosecution Service, explains that the Yazidi woman gave her statement anonymously and abroad. The statement came to the Netherlands via an investigative committee of the UN, when it turned out that the suspect was a Dutch woman.
“She was in a terrible situation,” says Blom. “She had to do housework from morning to night. She was also humiliated and forced to pray.”
In addition, according to her, the case should be seen against the background of what happened to the Yazidi population: “This victim was in a situation of slavery, while she had been kidnapped and imprisoned. Part of her family was also killed and two of her children are still missing.”
A. invoked her right to remain silent during interrogations. She failed to attend the first introductory session today. Through her lawyers, she denies having used the Yazidi woman as a slave.
Worse than men
Jezidis in the Netherlands hope that she will be severely punished. Dalal Ghanim is one of them. She fled from IS a few years ago. “I myself have several relatives who were killed or kidnapped by IS and you hear the same thing from all women: the women were in most cases much worse than men. They abused them both physically and psychologically and in some cases also contributed to rapes. “
Every Yazidi will have the same story, Ghanim thinks. “This has happened on such a large scale that everyone has been affected by it. We are not talking about a few hundreds or a few thousands here, but we are talking about almost half a million people. contributed.”
According to Ghanim, the Netherlands has so far paid more attention to the perpetrators and their stories than to the victims. “It felt to us as if people thought: it’s very far so they don’t belong to us. But the Dutch IS people, we want to know more about that. That bothers us because we are the victims.”
A cousin of my mother just ran into her rapist on the street.
The NL helps Yezidis foundation, together with the Public Prosecution Service, has worked hard to ensure that refugee Yazidi women throughout Europe could tell their story in order to collect evidence against IS fighters. That turned out not to be easy, because many Yazidi women are demotivated by the, according to them, low sentences that travelers receive here.
“They think: even if I become a witness and tell my story, they will only get one or two years in prison. What’s in it for me?”
Wahhab Hassoo of the NL Foundation helps Yezidis also thinks this way. “A cousin of my mother just met her rapist on the street. Literally. Just in Germany. She immediately went back to Iraq because she was afraid,” he says.
Many IS people have come here as refugees, he continues his story, and if they are arrested they are often released after two years. “Do you have to imagine how it feels for a victim to come across such a terrorist, such a genocide perpetrator on the street.”
Hassoo calls today’s lawsuit a historic day for the victims. “We hope for the maximum sentence and that is life in the Netherlands”. But really no punishment is appropriate for the atrocities committed against the Yazidis, he says. “They get a prison sentence and then it’s over, but for us it’s a lifelong trauma.”
“We hope that this will end the misery,” says Ghanium. “It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time something like this has happened. That’s why these women need to get the right punishments so that this can hopefully be prevented in the future.”
- OM: Woman picked up from IS camp had Yazidi as a slave
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- Displaced, traumatised: situation of Yazidis hopeless six years after genocide