“Whenever a war wages, our women end up as victims.”
Hundreds of escaped Yazidi sex slaves have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces to form an all-female military unit, and are taking up arms against ISIS.
The unit, known as the ‘Force of the Sun Ladies’, is currently made up of 123 women, with 500 more awaiting combat and weapons training. The Sun Ladies are aged 17 to 37, and have chosen the name of the group to reflect the Yazidi religion’s solar reverence.
Close to 4000 Yazidi women and girls were ripped from their homes on Mount Sinjar, Iraq, by ISIS in 2014. They were sold into sexual slavery in ISIS-controlled territories such as Raqqa and Mosul, and beaten and raped multiple times a day. Approximately 2000 have escaped since then. Captain Khatoon Khider, a member of the Sun Ladies, has vowed she and the other escapees will do whatever it takes to free more of those still in slavery, and to defeat ISIS.
“Now we are defending ourselves from the evil; we are defending all the minorities in the region. We will do whatever is asked of us,” stated Khider, from the unit’s makeshift base in Duhok, Iraq.
When Khider proposed the idea of an all-female Yazidi force to the Peshmerger senior command after surviving the attacks of 2014, she had no weaponry or combat experience. However, she hopes that in forming the force, other women will be inspired to learn how to protect themselves as she did, and will encourage other minority groups to do the same.
“Our elite force is a model for other women in the region,” explained Khider.
“We want to thank all the other countries who help us in this difficult time, we want everyone to take up weapons and know how to protect themselves from the evil.”
Currently on the Sun Ladies’ and Kurds’ agenda is an assault on Mosul; a self-proclaimed ISIS dominion with one of the most brutal regimes for women in the world. A large number of Yazidis were relocated to Mosul as sex slaves, making them ideal intelligence. They have knowledge of the ISIS regime within the city, and the geographical details of the terrain. Although an incredibly dangerous task, Khider and the other Yazidis know they have no choice but to undertake it.
“We have a lot of our women in Mosul being held as slaves. Their families are waiting for them. We are waiting for them. The liberation might help bring them home,” said Khider.
“Whenever a war wages, our women end up as the victims.”
The use of rape as a weapon of war has been exploited for centuries, and would seem to have no end in sight. However, the stoic resilience of the Force of the Sun Ladies is a step towards eliminating the use of the female body for unscrupulous gain, and providing much needed hope for those still suffering unspeakable cruelty in captivity.