“I pierced my face with a needle so they wouldn't take me away”

“They came and took the women away every day, and I felt that it was my turn. I didn't know what to do. I pierced my face with a needle. I made a lot of holes in my face, then I applied soot. I tried to create an ugly look.”

During the Yazidi Genocide in Shengal (Sinjar), which started on August 3, 2014, thousands of Yazidi women fell into the captivity of ISIS; detained women were sold in 21st century slave markets; subjected to rape, torture, oppression and persecution.

S.H., a 27-year-old woman, lives in Shengal. She is one of the women that ISIS kidnapped, tortured and sold in slave markets. Despite her young age, she experienced cruelty, oppression, rape and torture in her whole body. She is one of the thousands of women who seek emancipation without losing their faith and hope.

After being freed from ISIS, S.H. did not tell anyone about those days, but she knows more than any of us that this shame is not on her pure heart and body, but on those who tortured and raped her. She was dragged into a world that was not hers, she was detained and had to suffer all the dirt, corruption and cruelty of the world there. S.H. and thousands of Yazidi women are the representatives of honesty, hope and resistance.


S.H. is afraid, sometimes she does not want to talk about her experiences, but she also wants to reveal them. She thinks for a while, oscillating between speaking or not speaking. We understand her and we know that one needs courage, and it is difficult to tell. Finally, she wants to speak about her experiences because such stories should not be kept secret. If she speaks, she will live those days again. If she doesn't, those days will gnaw away at her mind. We're trying to comfort her. As a woman, I am on her side, and I deeply feel and understand all that she has gone through. I say that life will be better with women who bravely speak about their experiences and crimes that are not theirs and gain resistance by speaking to each other. It should be known by everyone who these persecutors, rapists, misogynists are.

S.H. takes the first step in speaking. For the first time in her life, she dares to talk about it. She wants to speak about the story that she hasn't told anyone to avenge herself against ISIS and to let everyone know what happened.


S.H., who was sold to her family in return for ransom after remaining captive in the hands of ISIS for 1 year and 6 months, currently lives in Shengal with her three children.

“Call me by my mother's name, Feyziye,” she says. While we listen to the story of S.H., one of the closest witnesses of the Yazidi Genocide, we call her Feyziye. We will refer to her as Feyziye while talking about her.


Feyziye is originally from Gir Zerek. She got married at the age of 17 in Gir Zerek and gave birth to a child there. Due to the difficult living conditions, two years before the genocide, her family settled in the town of Dumiz. The town lies in the west of Shengal, between Shengal and Gir Zerek, where predominantly Arabs and members of the Mitelta tribe live. There are nearly 50 Yazidi families there.

The Yazidi families, who settled in Dumiz, try to stay close to each other in the neighbourhoods they live in. During the genocide, most of the Yazidi families living in Dumiz fell into the hands of ISIS. The Yazidis, who had had good relations with their Arab neighbours before the genocide, were betrayed by their neighbours in Dumiz. Their Arab neighbours were those who attacked them first.

Their Arab neighbours told them, “Don't run away, nothing will happen to you, we will protect you”. Many Yazidis thus believed their neighbours’ words and decided to stay. As time passed, ISIS arrived in Gir Zerek and from there in Dumiz. The situation was changing. The Arab and Muslim neighbours of the Yazidis, who had said ‘We will protect you’, took sides with ISIS, and they were the first to attack Yazidi families. Moreover, many Yazidis who took refuge in their Arab and Muslim neighbours were murdered in those houses.

An uncle of Feyziye takes refuge in an Arab neighbour’s house. Moreover, these neighbours are also their relatives. Her uncle was murdered by his neighbours in his neighbour’s house where he was a guest.

Many Yazidis experienced the same as Feyziye and her family. The Yazidis were also massacred by their closest neighbours, relatives and friends.


Feyziye also tells us about her life in Dumiz before the genocide. “In Shengal, life was good before the genocide. We got on well with neighbours and friends. We had a good life apart from minor problems. We were at home. We were with our relatives, with our neighbours. At that time, ISIS was a popular topic everywhere. The news reported that “ISIS has entered Mosul…ISIS has entered Maxmur”. We were following the news. We used to sleep in our homes with fear and we thought that If ISIS came to Shengal, it would not come for us, but for the military forces. We thought that If ISIS came, the peshmerga were here, the Iraqis were here, they would fight and protect us. If we had known that this was going to happen, we would have left earlier, but there was no one left, everyone dispersed.”


Feyziye, who got married at the age of 17, already had three children three years before the genocide. Feyziye's husband went to Duhok to work a few days before the genocide, while Feyziye stayed with her three children and mother-in-law. She continues to speak in a low voice without letting go of her shyness:

“Everything was very difficult on the day of the genocide. After experiencing the betrayal of our neighbours, we desperately went to Shengal, and from there to Shengal's Kandil and Çilmera areas. At 8 in the morning, ISIS entered Shengal. We were too late. ISIS members chased and captured us. We were 14 people; me and my 3 children, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her 5 children, my sister, my brother-in-law's daughter and my uncle's son, who drove our car. Then a large number of ISIS members came and stopped us. They separated the men, the women and the children. They confiscated our phones, gold, and money.


Then they forced us into cars and took us to the Shengal Registration Office building. This was a two-storey building. They put the men upstairs and the women downstairs. Every day they came and took beautiful girls away from us. We stayed there for three days. Then they took us to the exit of Shengal. They left the men there and picked the women only. We stayed there for five days and when the fighter jets started to shell that area, they took us to Badush Prison in the town of Badush between Shengal and Tal Afar. We stayed there for 13 days. After Badush, they took us to a school in Tal Afar and kept us there for 23 days. During that time, they tortured us every day. They were serving only two meals, a small amount of food. Our children and we were afraid, we knew that we would be killed. We all wanted to die as soon as possible. We shuddered when they picked beautiful girls from among us. The beautiful women among us hid their faces. There were women who injured their faces. Those long corridors echoed for a while with the cries of those women as each girl was taken away. Nobody knew what happened to those girls. They tortured old women as well.

They were also torturing us. I was most afraid that they would harm my children. They usually took the children, but they did not take the little children who were in their mother's arms. My kids were so young they didn't take them from me. I was breastfeeding one of them constantly to keep him close to me and not hear the screams of Yazidi women. After a while, they came and asked, "Who is staying here as a family?" They separated the families and settled them in houses in Tal Afar. In those houses, they would take care of sheep and cows for the ISIS members and become slaves to them. I wanted them to take me too, but my husband was not with me. No matter what I did, they didn't take me. Becoming a slave to ISIS members was nothing compared to what they did to us, and I was ready to do anything to protect my children.


As to those without spouses, we were left at the school in Tal Afar. Every day they came and took the women away, and I felt that it was my turn. I didn't know what to do. I pierced my face with a needle I had kept with me. After making a lot of holes in my face from my cheeks to the corners of my eyes, I applied soot to it. I tried to fill the holes with the soot that I put on my face to create an ugly look. I changed my face. It was very painful for me, but it would have been more painful to have my children taken away from me and I was ready to endure any pain.

Source: Yeni Özgür Politika