Yazidi girl returns to Iraq after years of ISIS captivity

Her homecoming was delayed by the coronavirus lockdown in Syria

Layla Eido, a teenager from Iraq's minority Yazidi community, is pictured in the countryside of Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh on April 23, 2020. Years after jihadists stole her away to Syria, Eido finally recontacted her family in Iraq several months ago. But a coronavirus lockdown has delayed their long-awaited reunion. She has been stuck in northeast Syria since the Islamic State group's so-called "caliphate" collapsed last year, ending her jihadist captivity. But just when she was on the cusp of reuniting with her family, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced both Iraq and Syria to close their borders, stalling her return.
 / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN

A Yazidi girl abducted by the Islamic State group returned to Iraq on Sunday to be reunited with her family after the coronavirus lockdown in Syria delayed her homecoming, a community member said.

Layla Eido, 17, was among dozens of women and girls from Iraq's minority Yazidi community who were abducted by ISIS from their ancestral home of Sinjar in 2014. Many are still missing.

The women were enslaved, systematically raped, or married off by force to militants, but for Mr Eido the nightmare came to an end when the extremist group's so-called "caliphate" collapsed last year.

Ms Eido was was 11 when she was abducted, and later married off to a 21-year old Iraqi ISIS fighter from Tal Afar. She lived with her husband in one of the group's strongholds until he was killed last year during the group's last stand in Baghouz.

Since then, she had been stuck in the Kurdish-run Al Hol camp in northeast Syria, which had become home to thousands of ISIS wives and their children.

Several months ago she managed to contact her family in Iraq but just as she was about to be reunited with them, the Covid-19 pandemic forced both Iraq and Syria to close their borders, delaying her return.

On Sunday, Ms Eido finally made her way back to Iraqi territory along with another Yazidi survivor called Runia Faisal, an activist from the minority community told AFP.

Both girls who entered Iraq are "in good health", the activist said.

During her stay in Al Hol, Ms Eido had kept the fact that she was Yazidi a secret, fearing for her safety.

The jihadists "used to scare us and tell us the Kurds would kill us if we told them who we really were", Ms Eido had said earlier this month.

The activist said Kurdish forces helped both girls return to Iraq.

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