As It Happens

ISIS leader killed in U.S. raid should have faced war crimes tribunal: Yazidi activist

Yazidi activist Mirza Dinnayi says he's glad ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. military raid, but he would have rather seen him face justice in an international court. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi presided over the systematic rape and enslavement of Yazidi women and girls

Mirza Dinnayi is a Yazidi activist based in Germany who helps survivors of ISIS. (Victor Boyko/Getty Images)

Warning: This story contains graphic details about sexual assault. 

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Yazidi activist Mirza Dinnayi says he's glad the leader of ISIS is dead, but he would have rather seen him face justice in an international court. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during a U.S. military raid in Syria, killing himself and three of his children, U.S. President Donald Trump announced Sunday.

But for al-Baghdadi's victims, the suffering continues. 

Under his reign, ISIS targeted the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq in a brutal campaign described by the United Nations as genocide. More than 3,000 Yazidis were killed in northern Iraq in 2014, and nearly 7,000 women and girls were forced from their homes, enslaved and raped.

Now, some of those who survived are trying to rebuild their lives in Europe and North America. Many escaped thanks to the help of Dinnayi, who co-ordinated airlifts of formerly enslaved Yazidis to Germany. 

He spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about al-Baghdadi's death. Here is part of their conversation. 

How much of the horrors that Yazidi women went through can be traced directly back to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

We had 6,500 Yazidi women and children who were in the captivity of ISIS. And this decision of slavery and sex slavery was directly from Baghdadi. 

It was systemic rapes. It wasn't just moments of it or episodes of it. It was organized. And it was organized by Mr. al-Baghdadi, wasn't it?

Exactly. The rape and sex slavery, and slavery in general, was systematically organized by the Sharia court that was established by the Islamic State

And we're talking about very young women and girls. Teenagers. Because there have been reports some of those girls have described how Mr. al-Baghdadi himself led the rapes and directed others to do the same thing to the other women and teenagers, and then had men watch. This was an observation activity as well. Did you hear that from the women?

Yeah. The issue is that, according to this radical Islamic version, a girl shouldn't be 18 in order to be a target of sex. If they make investigation and they say if she is adult enough physically and she can — well, sorry for this word — she can accept that intercourse physically, so then she can be used as sex slaves.

Therefore, it was easy for them because they justified this kind of pedophilia [with] ... a radical version of Islam. 

A Yazidi woman feeds her child in their tent at a camp for internal displaced persons Dohuk, Iraq, in 2017. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Many women, the women who escaped or found smugglers who could get them out of these camps, [away from] ISIS captors, went looking for you. If they could get to Germany, they were told to find Dr. Mirza, he would be your friend. You must have seen and heard some horrible stories over the years.

In 2015, I interviewed 1,300 women and children who were in the captivity of ISIS. I was completely traumatized. Until now, when I tried to sleep, I remember some of these stories. And sometimes I cry when I'm alone with myself.

Some of these stories, you will never forget. 

We know some Yazidi women came to Canada and are dealing with very deep trauma. They've been getting some help here. How much help has there been for the women with whom you have had contact?

I think the women were very lucky that there was this German project and a Canadian project, because there was no opportunity to treat those kind of trauma in Iraq.

Those beneficiaries that we brought to Germany, when I meet them here and their children, they are very well integrated in the schools. Some of them now are joining university. Some of them are working. And they rebuild themselves very quickly.

This image made from video posted on a militant website in 2019 purports to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader killed in a U.S. raid. (Al-Furqan media/The Associated Press)

What was your reaction when you learned that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed?

Generally speaking, everybody was happy that this monster was killed.

For my personal opinion, I had hoped that he and all the leadership of ISIS will be in front of an international tribunal in order to be asked about their crimes, what they did to the population — not only the Yazidis, but to all other populations.

But we are happy that this monster went. I hope that we will defeat also the ideology that Baghdadi and the Islamic State established. This is much more dangerous than the presence of one of these terrorists.

What chance is there that we'll ever see any of these ISIS members, these leaders, face justice in a court?

I'm afraid that the international community didn't really act until now in an adequate way to punish monsters of Islamic State.

There is no plan or agenda to establish a tribunal, neither a national tribunal nor an international tribunal, for the crimes of ISIS.

I hope that we will be able to convince these countries, especially the permanent members of the [UN] Security Council.

When you think of those women with whom you met, the ones who came to see you are there, you said that you'll never forget some of the stories. Are there some that are closest to you that you worry about the most?

The biggest problem that I'm thinking about now [is] those women who stayed more than five years in the captivity of ISIS, and they are still in the camps where the families of ISIS are. So even they are not liberated yet.

Even though the ISIS men, they are imprisoned or they are killed, but the families of ISIS, they are telling them that they cannot return back to the community. Or they tell them if you return back, you would be killed. Or they have children from ISIS.

This makes me concerned about them.

Written by Sheena Goodyear and Chris Harbord. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.