Shireen is a Yazidi ISIS survivor from Iraq. She was held as a slave by ISIS for three years after her village in Iraq was overrun by the terror group until she was able to escape during a military onslaught on the terror group.
Shireen (we are only allowed to use her first name) was in Israel the past two weeks with a group of other Yazidi ISIS survivors who were brought to the country for a post-trauma course at the initiative of Bar Ilan University and IsraAid.
In the group was Lamiya Aji Bashar, who won the 2016 Sakharov Prize. Lamiya lost an eye when a mine exploded near her during a daring escape. The two girls escaping with her were killed by the same mine.
Bashar now lives in Germany where more than 1,000 Yazidi ISIS survivors now reside. These survivors are assisted there by an incredible man, Mirza Dinnayi, himself a Yazidi who moved to Germany decades ago.
Dinnayi heads an NGO in Germany called Luftbrucke Irak dedicated to helping victims of terror. Dinnayi makes a point of visiting Israel every year. This year, after two years of planning, Dinnayi was able to bring the survivors (most of whom still live in Iraq) to Israel, a country which, out of necessity, has developed tools to deal with post-traumatic stress disorders in terror survivors.
It was a logistics feat, considering that Israel has no diplomatic relations with Iraq.
The dedicated course organizers, Professor Ari Zivotofsky and Dr. Yaakov Hoffman, both from Bar Ilan University, feel they have a moral obligation to study the effects of genocide and to share Israel’s expertise in dealing with it.
I first met up with the group on Friday night, June 28, 2019 in Jerusalem. The girls wanted to meet Jewish people while they were in Israel and experience Jewish culture. It was suggested that they break up into small groups and join families for the traditional Friday night Sabbath meal. The girls were enthusiastic about the plan.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when their tour guide dropped off three girls at my house. Images from the media of shy girls, draped in veils and unable to communicate flooded my imagination. Instead, I was greeted by three beautiful, vivacious and Western-looking young women who couldn’t express their gratitude enough for being welcomed into my home: Shireen, who survived captivity, Talja, a young doctor who escaped to the Kurdish area of Iraq right before ISIS took over her village and her cousin Izzyhana, who is Dinnayi’s daughter and lives in Germany.
Their English was superb and the night flew by, animated by multiple questions and answers on both sides. I was most struck by the survivors’ forward-looking attitudes — all were ready to put the past behind them, get on with their lives and, at the same time, help others with the skills they learned the past two weeks in Israel.
Later, I met Shireen for a more serious interview. Shireen currently lives in a camp in Iraq and volunteers for Springs of Hope, a Clarion partner organization that helps rehabilitate terrorized children started by Israeli Lisa Miara.
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