Take in more Yazidi women fleeing ISIS, refugee advocates urge Ottawa

Twenty-two members of Yazidi refugee Adiba’s family were captured when ISIS attacked her village in Iraq. Like Adiba, many of them were sold into sexual slavery after the August 2014 attack.

‘They are buying and selling us like we are a product in a supermarket,’ says survivor

Adiba was held captive by ISIS soldiers for a year-and-a-half before escaping to Canada. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Twenty-two members of Yazidi refugee Adiba's family were captured when ISIS attacked her village in Iraq.

Like Adiba, many of them were sold into sexual slavery after the August 2014 attack.  

"They killed our men, our brothers," the 27-year-old said in Arabic.

"They kidnapped our girls. They destroyed everything in their way."

She's sharing her story, hoping to draw awareness to the plight of the Yazidi community, a religious minority targeted by the terrorist group known as ISIS.

Adiba, whose last name is not being published because she fears for the safety of her family still in Iraq, now lives in Toronto.

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to ISIS in August 2014. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

Group rescues women

Adiba was held captive by ISIS soldiers for a year-and-a-half, beaten and tortured during that time, before escaping and immigrating to Canada.

"They are buying and selling us like we are a product in a supermarket," she said.  

It's at those types of markets that humanitarian organizations such as One Free World International find and rescue women like Adiba.

Majed El Shafie, left, founded an organization that has helped rescued 600 Yazidi women from ISIS captivity — including Abida, right. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

"We were able to go there and buy them from ISIS hands," said Majed El Shafie, the founder of One Free World.

His organization has rescued about 600 Yazidi women, he said, but approximately 3,200 are still in captivity.

"[Children] as young as nine-years-old [are] being raped 20 times a day," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"It is a situation that I have nightmares about."

Plea for more support

El Shafie wants the Canadian government to take in more Yazidi refugees.

The federal government pledged to resettle 1,200 ISIS survivors in Canada by the end of 2017, with an emphasis on Yazidi families.

It missed that target, bringing in only 981 ISIS survivors last year. Eighty-one per cent were Yazidi.

"I would like, first of all, for [the Canadian government] to keep their promises," El Shafie said. "Secondly, I would like to see them increasing this number to 4,000."

Majed El Shafie, right, works in the Middle East to free Yazidi women still living in ISIS captivity. He says his organization works through Kurdish third parties to track down the sex trade markets where the women are bought and sold. (One Free World International)

The government doesn't plan to extend the survivors initiative, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC, but will continue to support private sponsorship of vulnerable people.

El Shafie urged Canadians to keep up the pressure. "It's not just in the hands in the government."

For El Shafie, who was imprisoned and tortured in his home country of Egypt for his Christian beliefs before escaping to Canada 16 years ago, helping Yazidi refugees has become a personal mandate.  

"If we stop fighting for each other, we lose our humanity," he said.

"I'm fighting for these people like they are my own."

"They are buying and selling us like we are a product in a supermarket," says survivor. 8:25

With files from Claudia Goodine and The Early Edition.

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