Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State jihadist group have committed suicide or tried to, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
IS militants have overrun swathes of Iraq since June, declared a cross-border caliphate also encompassing parts of neighbouring Syria, and carried out a litany of abuses in both countries.
The group has targeted Yazidis and other minorities in north Iraq in a campaign that rights group Amnesty said amounted to ethnic cleansing, murdering civilians and enslaving others for a fate that some captives consider even worse than death.
“Many of those held as sexual slaves are children — girls aged 14, 15 or even younger,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, said in a statement.
Amnesty said that many of the perpetrators are IS fighters, but may also include supporters of the group.
A 19-year-old named Jilan committed suicide out of fear she would be raped, Amnesty quoted her brother as saying.
A girl who was held with her but later escaped confirmed the account, saying: “One day we were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom.”
“She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful; I think she knew she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.”
Another former captive told the rights group that she and her sister tried to kill themselves to escape forced marriage, but were stopped from doing so.
“We tied… scarves around our necks and pulled away from each other as hard as we could, until I fainted… I could not speak for several days after that,” Wafa, 27, told the rights group.
Amnesty also recounted the story of 16-year-old Randa, who was abducted with her family and raped by a man twice her age.
“It is so painful what they did to me and to my family,” Randa said.
Rovera said: “The physical and psychological toll of the horrifying sexual violence these women have endured is catastrophic.
“Many of them have been tortured and treated as chattel. Even those who have managed to escape remain deeply traumatised.”
A US-led coalition has been carrying out a campaign of air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria in an attempt to halt the group’s advance.
Retired admiral could pose serious threat if he decides to run against Iowa Republican: report
On Wednesday, Iowa Starting Line reported that Ret. Adm. Michael Franken is in talks with state and national Democrats about challenging GOP Sen. Joni Ernst.
Franken, who has served as Deputy for Military Operations for AFRICOM, Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of the Navy, hails from Sioux Center, a town in the deeply conservative northwest part of the state.
Ernst, who first gained national attention for her 2014 campaign ad about castrating hogs, is a reliable vote for President Donald Trump in the Senate, and the president's poor approval ratings in Iowa have left Democrats hopeful that they can defeat her.
‘This American dream’: Pain overwhelms family of drowned migrants
"They had this American dream," sobbed Rosa Ramirez after images of her drowned son and granddaughter, discovered face-down on the banks of the Rio Grande between Mexico and the United States, shocked the world on Wednesday.
The poignant pictures of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his toddler daughter Valeria -- not yet two years old -- has sparked outrage back home in El Salvador, where around 200 migrants like them leave for the United States daily, preparing to take similar risks.
"The pain has been immense. I still can't believe that my boy and my little granddaughter are dead, they only wanted to get to the United States.... they had this American dream -- to achieve a better life," Oscar's mother told AFP.
Venezuela government says thwarted attempted ‘coup’
Venezuela's socialist government said Wednesday it had derailed an attempted coup, claiming the United States, Colombia and Chile colluded in a military plot to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro and install a general and former defense minister in his place.
Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the plan involved active and retired army officers and was to have been executed between Sunday and Monday this past weekend.
"We were in all the meetings to plan the coup d'Etat. We were in all the conferences," Rodriguez said, suggesting that government informers had infiltrated the alleged plotters during planning meetings.