Please take off your shoes,” the office manager suggested softly. “Women tell their stories in this room. It’s sacred space.”
It was a nondescript office in Dohuk, northern Iraq, a place I found myself as I traveled with the Preemptive Love Coalition. But our host was right. When Amena, a young Iraqi woman recently rescued from ISIS, began to tell her story, we sat stunned, humbled, and silent before the sacred trust of her words.
In August of 2014, thousands of men, women, and children from Amena’s Yezidi community were slaughtered or kidnapped by ISIS. Members of this small religious minority are considered particularly heretical by ISIS; the Yezidis, consequently, have experienced the extremist group’s vicious wrath. Mass graves hold the bones of hundreds of men, boys, and women too old to be desired as sex slaves.
Amena might have preferred death to her “marriage” to an ISIS fighter who used her and then traded her to other fighters like a prize. But no, she could not die. Though ISIS had killed her husband, she still carried his baby in her womb. Her five other children had also been captured by ISIS, but she knew where they were; she knew they were alive.
Months passed. Amena gave birth to a perfect little baby. And then something snapped inside her—she had to get out, had to get her kids out. A chance came to escape, and she took it.
But Amena failed. She was recaptured. Her captors punished her by killing her newborn baby, as well as her 18-month-old and 4-year-old. They gave her a photo of her three babies wrapped in their funeral clothes, eyes closed, lying side by side as if asleep.
Four days before I arrived in Iraq in November 2015, Amena and her 10-year-old daughter ...1
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