Today marks four years since ISIS launched their genocidal campaign against the Yezidi community in Sinjar. Since the initial attack in August 2014, thousands of Yezidi women and men have been killed, the community has been forced from their homeland and dispersed around the world, and the fate of over 3,000 Yezidi women and girls enslaved by ISIS remains unknown.
Four years on, the genocide continues and Yezidis are still waiting for any measure of justice or accountability.
Rahaf feared going home. Her clothes had been torn, making visible the painful red welts that would turn into eggplant-colored bruises. On her arms and legs, her family and fiance would be able to see the round burn marks where they put out cigarettes on her skin.
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By Annie Hylton/Guest Blogger — January 20, 2017
By Lizzie Porter/Guest Blogger — December 22, 2016
When Luna Watfa refused to reveal any information to her interrogators, they took her son, 17, and threatened to torture him. “They put my son’s hands behind his back, his T-shirt over his head, and they took him,” she says.
Read more on the Women Under Siege
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — August 8, 2016
By Priyali Sur/Contributor — June 29, 2016
The woman looked uneasy and uncomfortable as she peered outside her tent into the darkness. All she could see was an empty stretch with a few bushes, where men were taking turns to urinate. There was nothing—no facilities—available for women.
By Priyali Sur/Contributor — October 14, 2015
In a swirl of humanity punctuated by police geared with batons, riot gear, and even machine guns, a sense of solace can be hard to find. But for many of the refugees I met at the Hungarian border with Serbia and Croatia, they sought to locate that saving grace in their families, who were both a source of anxiety on this unending journey, and also their succor.
Lauren Wolfe, director of WMC’s Women Under Siege, visited the camp in May and captured photographs of everyday life. Her images show that for the Syrians living together in this vast camp, life goes on as usual—families cook dinner, children play in the streets, vendors sell their wares at makeshift shops. On display is everything from desolate communal kitchens in concrete bunkers to the children selling everything from cotton candy to lollipops for 10 hours a day.
Just as rape and other forms of sexualized violence have historically been viewed as a “natural” part of war, they have often been recognized as occurring in genocide but not necessarily as an act of genocide in itself.
Just before 2 a.m. and nearly half a world away, I watched a guilty verdict from Guatemala scroll by tweet by tweet on my phone. Former President Efrain Rios Montt was convicted on May 10 of genocide and crimes against humanity and given 80 years in prison. As the news came through, I felt a satisfied chill—decades after the murder of 200,000 Guatemalans and the rape of 100,000 women, mostly Mayans, justice has actually come in our lifetime.
One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him.
On a still warm day in October, I sat on a panel of mostly Syrian women at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. One woman wore a wool scarf draped around her shoulders in the black, red, and green of the Free Syrian Army. Most wore a hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Turn by turn, we described our work documenting and assisting Syrian women and children who were drawn into the ongoing Syrian conflict.
Read the full story on Women Under Siege.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — July 18, 2012
The UN asked me to present the first findings of a data analysis of our crowdmap of sexualized violence in Syria as the Security Council gears up to vote on international sanctions--potentially on Friday. Below is my testimony to a room that contained members of the council from France, Portugal, the European Union delegation, Egypt, Italy, and perhaps a few members from Syria (the jury's out on that).
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — July 16, 2012
I’ll start with a simple number: 20,000. Granted it’s rounded up a little—from 19,738. Rounding up works well on the page, but also belittles its subject. It gives us a solid number to latch on to, for the media to print, for the memory to hold. But 19,738 is the exact count of lives that have been lost so far in the war in Syria, according to a volunteer, nonprofit group called Syria Tracker. And when it comes to this conflict, every little number, every single life, counts.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director
A woman swathed in black squares her shoulders and calmly looks into a camera. She holds a Quran. Only a sliver of her face—her eyeglasses—shows. “What happened to me hasn’t happened to anyone, or if it has affected anyone else I do not know,” she says. “But I will speak and let all the people know what [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad and his men are doing.” Over the next four minutes, her breathing grows labored and her voice breaks as she describes how, in May 2011, five men wearing black entered her home on the outskirts of Homs and raped her.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director and Jackie Blachman-Forshay/Syria Researcher — May 29, 2012
By Lauren Wolfe And Catherine M. Mullaly
When we hear about conflicts in foreign countries and imagine terrible acts, our thoughts don’t turn immediately to rape. We think of bombings and refugees and government suppression. If we think of sexualized violence at all, we may imagine a faceless, powerless woman, one unfortunate person who will eventually become a statistic—400,000 raped in Rwanda, 100,000 in Guatemala. When we hear about conflicts, we don’t imagine these stories. Or we consider them to simply be part of a larger horror.