One of the women he saved from being sold into sex slavery was his own sister
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On one website bidding opens at $9,000. Others on social media are asking for $8,000. What is being put up for auction or sold over the internet? Young Yazidi girls, some who are not yet even teenagers. One girl up for auction is 11 years old.
Who are the buyers? ISIS fighters in the Middle East. Many of these girls were captured in 2014 when ISIS stormed through Iraq, killing and abducting members of the Yazidi religious minority group. Thousands fled from the military advances of ISIS, but not all were able to escape. According to some reports, up to 7,000 women and girls were abducted and since then have been sold into sex slavery.
However, one businessman in Iraq is coordinating an effort to save the lives of these girls. Abdullah Shrem, angered by the kidnapping of his own family members, began recruiting a team of smugglers to help him recover these sex slaves.
Shrem recently told CNN, “No government or experts trained us. We learned by just doing it, over the last year and a half, we gained the experience.” Through their efforts, his small team of under-trained smugglers has saved 240 Yazidis. It hasn’t been easy and Shrem has been using up all of his money to pay for these expeditions. Many of the smugglers that Shrem hired have been killed while trying to save these girls.
While the sacrifices are many, Shrem strongly believes in his mission, “Whenever I save someone, it gives me strength and it gives me faith to keep going until I have been able to save them all.”
One of the women he saved was his own sister. Shrem recounted, “For eight months, I didn’t hear anything from her… [Then] there was a wife of an ISIS fighter who gave her a phone and said, ‘Maybe you will be able to save yourself.’” She called Shrem, and after finding her location he rescued her and her five-year old son.
Shrem is not the only one outraged by the activity of ISIS who is actively working to help these women and girls. Falah Murad Khan Shakarm, coordinator for an organization named Wadi, has sought to help these former slaves recover from their horrific experiences. He told Teen Vogue, “We focus on getting these girls real help.” His organization “helps them connect with medical and mental care providers, find their scattered families, and obtain identifying documents to receive aid from the Iraqi government.”
The majority of these efforts to save and help sex slaves in Iraq are not government sponsored, and Shrem has been appalled by the lack of international aid. He related to CNN, “If it was 50 and not 5,000 Europeans that were being raped every day by ISIS, would Europe stay silent? Of course not. There would be operations… But 5,000 Yazidis being raped, the children trained and turned into walking bombs, and no one does anything. We are abandoned.”
Others have been lobbying world leaders for more support, including a woman who escaped captivity, Nadia Murad. She addressed the United Nations a few months ago; she advised the nations to make sure “the world becomes aware that you can’t talk about counterterrorism without ensuring the protection and empowerment of women.”