On June 2, 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed the UN Security Council on sexual violence in conflict. He stated “It is estimated that the Ezidi community gave the Islamic State up to $45 million in ransom payments in 2014 alone.”
It is irresponsible for the UN Secretary General to make such an unsubstantiated claim. The deceitfulness of this statement and the cunning wording should not go unchallenged. The definition of “up to” a certain amount means anything that does not exceed that amount. Is $1 million dollars considered “up to” $45 million? Was this wording intentionally selected so as to deny the claim of $45 million dollars when challenged?
Director General of Ezidis in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Khairi Bozani sent an open letter to Ban Ki-Moon challenging his statement as “too vague and uncertain.” He also stated that Ezidi officials and community members have called on Ki-Moon repeatedly, pleading with him to save them from Daesh shootings, beheadings, and kidnappings.
“After all these crimes were committed against Ezidis and their calls for help [remained unanswered], we would like to ask you, have you done anything for them other than expressing your concern about the fate of the minority?” Bozani questioned.
On August 3, 2014, the Islamic State, referred to as Daesh in Iraq, attacked the Yazidis in their homeland of Shengal, Iraq. On August 15, they attacked Kocho village. An estimated 9,000 Yazidis were killed or captured. The women and girls were beaten, raped, sold, and used for sex. Hundreds or thousands of men and some older women were killed in mass executions.
The women and children under age three were taken to Mosul, Tal Afar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other places. In the months following, a few women and girls began to escape through unlocked windows or doors when their captors were sleeping or off fighting. These independent escapes were soon curtailed.
On November 3, 2014, the Kurdistan government said that it had purchased the freedom of 234 Yezidi captives from Daesh in return for $1.5 million paid to intermediaries. This was the first large group of Ezidis rescued.
“We are not paying any money to Daesh,” said Osman. “We pay the people who are helping us and it doesn’t matter to us whether they buy them from the Daesh. What matters is rescuing the person.”
Escapes and planned rescues in 2014 probably were not more than 400 at the maximum. The UN General Secretary’s claim of $45 million in payments in 2014 alone is preposterous. What would motivate him to claim such an indefensible thing?
By 2015, the women who were not cooperative to being used sexually by Daesh men were sold to others. It is not easy to keep a person prisoner in one’s own house for an extended period.
As the women and girls were bought and sold, they became a commodity worth more as a profitable sale item then a sexual slave. That is when intermediaries began buying them, then allowing them to contact their families in Kurdistan or Turkey to negotiate a price for their safe return. Intermediaries who are caught get executed by Daesh. So transferring them to safety is dangerous and costly.
The Yazidi Affairs Office in Duhok, Kurdistan, was established to rescue the kidnapped Ezidis and help those who return from captivity. In the beginning, the office was paying the money for rescues prior to the rescue. Later, presumably after international criticism of breaking anti-terrorism laws and charges of financing terrorism, the KRG began reimbursing families three to six months after their loved ones were rescued. Government payments averaged $3000 USD and increased slightly up to $4000 or $5000 by 2016. Now under pressure of international anti-terrorism laws, the Kurdistan government has stopped paying families directly.
There are dozens or even hundreds who could be home in a week if only their families had the money to pay for their return. They already have contact with the person holding their loved one prisoner. They make the arrangements themselves; no need for outside help. They just need money.
There were also Ezidis who were returned to freedom through military operations. An estimated 2000 Ezidis have now returned from Daesh captivity. For the sake of argument, let’s argue that none escaped or were rescued for free.
2000 Ezidis x $5000 US dollars = $10 million dollars after nearly two years.
This is a maximum estimate and probably double what was actually paid to intermediaries to free the women and children.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is trying to gain support for the immoral position that freeing the kidnapped women and children is tantamount to financing terrorism and they must therefore not be freed. It is another not-so subtle threat that anyone who tries to pay intermediaries to return the kidnapped Ezidis is guilty of breaking anti-terrorism laws.
In March 2016, I was part of a small Ezidi delegation that had multiple meetings in London with UK MPs. I took Saloa Khalaf Rasho, an 18-year-old Ezidi girl who had been held captive for eight months by Daesh, to testify. She asked for help to free those women and children remaining captive. Ezidi Commander Haider Shesho also asked for aid to fight Daesh and help to return the kidnapped Ezidis.
I presented 11 recommendations. The first was to announce a three-month amnesty from prosecution under anti-terrorism laws for the return of the kidnapped victims and to establish a fund of $15 million US dollars to be used for the return of Yezidis kidnapped by Daesh. With such a fund, 2000 Ezidis can be freed very quickly. No military action is required.
These recommendations were later presented to the UK House of Commons for consideration.
Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP who sits on the UK’s Intelligence Committee stated the “United Kingdom policy is not to pay ransoms to kidnappers either directly or indirectly.”
On May 11, Grieve forwarded me a letter from UK MP Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State. Ellwood states, in part:
“The Government has a long-held and clear policy of not making substantive concessions to kidnappers. This includes the payment of ransoms, prisoner exchanges or changes in Government policy. Our policy prevents millions of pounds reaching terrorist organisations which brutalise local populations. . .
“Ransom payments to terrorists are illegal under both UK and International law because it amounts to financing terrorism. This includes any payment where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the money, or other property, may be used for the purposes of terrorism. In terrorist kidnap cases, payment of a ransom to an intermediary could well result in at least some of the funds being used for the purposes of terrorism.
“The UK is playing a leading role in tackling people smuggling and increasing joint intelligence work to target the cruel gangs that exploit human beings for their own gain. As such, it would be inconsistent with our policy to support people smuggling in any context, even in this tragic case.”
The UN, UK, and US positions against helping to rescue the kidnapped women and children with a mere $15 million fund is a misdirected, evil-spirited, inhumane non-response to the entire Ezidi community whose souls are torn with grief and whose voices cry out to the world to save their girls. Meanwhile, over 2,000 Ezidi women and children still remain captive with Daesh. The rapes continue. No one sleeps well at night. No one dances anymore.
The contact calls with offers to return the captive Ezidi women and children continue, but the Ezidis are bankrupt. Hope dims. Time is running out.
Dr. Amy L. Beam, has been a human rights activist and writer for Ezidis since they were attacked by Daesh August 3, 2014. She is Executive Director of AAJ non-governmental organization registered in Duhok, Kurdistan. Follow her public Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AmyLBeam
Donations may be made via PayPal at http://www.amybeam.info/donate_yezidis.htm