Six years after its gruesome assault on the Yazidi minority in Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) continues to sell Yazidi captives online on what is known as the “deep web” of criminal activities. A number of such sales have taken place in Turkey, indicating that IS militants are still able to take shelter in the country.
Most recently, a 7-year-old Yazidi girl was rescued by police posing as buyers. According to Turkish journalist Hale Gonultas, who closely follows the fate of IS captives, police took action after an advertisement in Kurdish and Arabic, complete with the girl’s picture, appeared online Feb. 23. Posing as relatives of the child, the police made the highest bid and were able to detect the address of the advertiser. They raided a home in Ankara’s Kecioren district the following day and rescued the girl.
According to the official account of the incident, police and intelligence services established that a suspect, who was a ranking member of IS in Mosul, Iraq, had made it to Ankara, bringing along a Yazidi child as “war booty.” The man, identified only as S.O., was detained along with a suspected accomplice.
After such online “auctions,” the captives are usually delivered via “safe middlemen” who are typically criminals involved in the trafficking of drugs, arms and humans. The rescued girl remains in state care in Ankara, as Iraqi commissions dealing with missing Yazidis are working to trace her family.
In July 2020, a 24-year-old Yazidi woman, held captive in Ankara’s Sincan district, was rescued by relatives in Australia who “bought” her in an online sale. According to Gonultas, the Yazidi woman’s captor — a Turkmen IS member from Mosul — had bought her from an online slave market in 2018. The man, who moved frequently between Iraq and Turkey, kept a home in Sincan with his two wives, four children and the Yazidi woman.
Another Yazidi woman was rescued in Ankara in October 2019. She was held by a senior Iraqi Turkmen member of IS, who was so audacious as to rent an apartment near a police station in Kecioren. The young woman, abducted as a 14-year-old in 2014, lived with the family of the IS militant and had a baby as a product of rape. The man, who had been an IS emir in Tal Afar, Iraq, traveled frequently to Iraq, which allowed the woman’s brother to track him down to Ankara. The brother managed to take a picture of his sister and her captor, seizing a rare moment the man took the woman out, and went to the police. Eventually, the woman was rescued. The authorities, however, took no legal action against her captor as she did not file a complaint against him, although they had enough findings to pursue a criminal case for abduction and rape.
Another rescue saga unfolded in Kirsehir, a city not far from Ankara, in 2017, when an Iraqi Turkmen made an unsuccessful attempt to register two children as his own at a police bureau dealing with refugees. The two siblings were taken into state care, while their pictures were sent to Iraqi centers dealing with missing Yazidis. This eventually brought their adult sister to Kirsehir — a woman who herself had been an IS captive before relatives bailed her out. Her parents, husband, son and a sibling were also missing. The woman faced legal barriers in claiming her siblings in Kirsehir, including having to provide DNA tests and proof that their parents were dead. Ultimately, the two children, ages 9 and 11, were handed over to Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani when he visited Ankara in September.