Syrian Kurds return 12 children to Yazidi mothers who escaped ISIS

Said to have been fathered by ISIS members, this was the first time children have been given back to their Yazidi families

Displaced Iraqi children from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the Iraqi town of Sinjar, play at Sharya camp on the outskirts of Duhok province, July 30, 2019. Picture taken July 30, 2019.  REUTERS/Ari Jalal

Syria's Kurds have handed back 12 children said to have been fathered by ISIS members to their mothers from Iraq's Yazidi minority, a Kurdish official said on Friday.

"The children, aged two to five, were all born to Yazidi mothers and fathered by ISIS members. They were handed over to their mothers on Thursday," Syrian Kurdish official Zeyneb Saroukhan said

Dozens of Yazidi women and girls who survived sex slavery at the hands of ISIS extremists in Syria have since returned to Iraq.

But many were forced to leave their children behind or risk being shunned by their community.

Ms Saroukhan said this was the first time children had been returned to their mothers.

ISIS abducted thousands of Yazidi women and girls from their ancestral Iraqi home of Sinjar in 2014, then enslaved, raped, or married them off by force to its members, including in neighbouring Syria.

US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters say they rescued dozens of Yazidi women during their years of fighting ISIS.

The extremist group suffered a territorial defeat in 2019.

But while the Yazidi community welcomed those survivors back to northern Iraq, that compassion was not extended to their children.

Ms Saroukhan said it had been the Syrian Kurdish authorities' duty to look after the children until their mothers asked for them.

Yazidi women and children have previously returned from Syria to Iraq, but many of those abducted remain missing.

In May last year, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl abducted by ISIS returned to Iraq, after the coronavirus lockdown in Syria delayed her homecoming.

In 2019, Syria's Kurds repatriated 25 women and children.

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