The children of Yazidi women raped by ISIS men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq, from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community after the ISIS extremist group’s 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority.
Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwest Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with deep suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
US-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of the ISIS group’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria, in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Still, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to ISIS families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants’ cub scouts, given military training, and indoctrinated in jihadi ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeast Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq chose to stay in Syria, instead, in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of enslavement, and their children, into the Yazidi community, on Wednesday.
The community sent two representatives to search for women and children in the camps in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the ISIS caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, said Eido Baba Sheikh.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or ISIS families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community.
Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors, as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, said Eido Baba Sheikh. Under the country’s nationality laws, a child must have an
Iraqi father to receive citizenship, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqis.