When Ariya* returned to northern Iraq with her two daughters after three years in captivity by Islamic State (ISIS) and other militias, her parents did not recognize her.
The 30-year-old Kurdish woman was one of 6,000 Yazidis seized when ISIS militants invaded Iraq in 2014. Yazidi religion being especially despised by Muslim extremists, over the next three years she was sold to fighters of different factions who raped her and her daughters.
She and her daughters were in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria when U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces liberated the city in October 2017. She found her way back to northern Iraq, eventually reuniting with her parents in a camp for displaced persons where local missionaries ministered to her.
“Her parents could not recognize her, as she looked as if she was 60 years old,” the leader of the native ministry said. “Her two daughters were exposed to trauma, still waking up every night and crying out in fear.”
“She thought about committing suicide repeatedly, but every time she was afraid to leave her two children.”
ISIS forces killed an estimated 3,000 Yazidis in their invasion of Kurdish Iraq, including Ariya’s husband. The terrorists carried buses full of captured Yazidi women and girls through market areas of towns, calling out, “If you don’t have an infidel yet, this is your chance to take one,” according to National Public Radio.
Middle East Muslims consider Yazidis among the worst of “infidels.” Yazidi religion holds that a divine being created the world and gave stewardship of it to seven angels, including a preeminent figure known as Melek Taus (“Peacock Angel”). Later Muslims mistakenly identified Melek Taus with Satan, leading to centuries of persecution of Yazidis as “devil-worshippers.”
Local missionaries found Ariya in critical need of medical and psychological care, the ministry leader said.
“She was raped on a daily basis for three years, and she was sold 21 times to fighters of different nationalities who attacked her children in front of her eyes repeatedly,” he said. “She thought about committing suicide repeatedly, but every time she was afraid to leave her two children.”
The ministry’s mobile medical clinic provided medicines and treatments that helped restore the family’s health, and the ministry leader helped arrange for them to receive Christian counseling. He connected them with women from the ministry’s church that took the family in and cared for them.
“The family believed in Christ,” the ministry leader said. “Ariya’s father said, ‘If Satan had thought about inventing a religion, he wouldn’t have done what that criminal gang did; what religion is this who sells a mother with two daughters 21 times? I have not seen anything more beautiful and sweeter than Jesus Christ.’”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Katey Hearth
CALL TO ACTION
- Pray the Lord would bring spiritual and physical healing to many suffering people in Iraq.