Sami’s mother, who we will refer to as Khro, speaks about how, “at six o’clock in the morning on August 3, 2014” – the day of the ISIS attack on Şengal – she and others had “left Tal Uzair” (a medium-sized Yezîdî village) and “headed towards water wells” about 7km away. On the way, however, she describes how she and those with her “heard the sound of gunshots”. Soon afterwards, she says, “we realized that we had been attacked by ISIS militants”.
Seven people, she explains, “came in a pickup truck”, and “our men waved to them with white flags” in an attempt to avoid hostilities. “They told us not to worry or be afraid”, she says, and they assured the civilians that they would not harm them. At the same time, however, they told the men “to hand over their cell-phones, money, jewellery, and weapons”. Then, she recalls, “they took us all to a house”, where “they separated the men, young women and old women, putting each group in a separate room”. Overall, she asserts, “we did everything they ordered us to do”.
“After a quarter of an hour three of their men entered the room”, she recounts, while “three others stayed in the yard and another one stayed near the car outside the house”. Around half an hour later, she says, “they shot one of our men who was standing near his car”, before then entering “the room where all our men were”. Soon, she stresses, “we heard the sound of gunshots and screams from our men”. The women yelled out, but could do nothing from the locked room where they found themselves. The Khro family lost all of the following members in this event:
- Sami Jando Khaddadh Khro (b. 1994)
- Atto Gatto Khro (b. 1951)
- Khalil Gatto Khro (b. 1968)
- Mahmoud Barakat Khro (b. 1969)
- Mahmood Mirza Khro (b. 1979)
- Mahmoud Murad Khro (b. 1975)
- Farhan Barakat Khro (b. 1992)
- Farman Mahmoud Barakat Khro (b. 1990)
- Sabri Atto Gatto Khro (b. 1981)
- Eido Sabri Atto Gatto Khro (b. 1990)
- Salem Sabri Atto Gatto Khro (b. 1995)
- Aishan Sharaf Ajool (b. 1974)
“As a result of our screams”, Sami’s mother says, “they opened the door for us to see our murdered men piled up”. This, she insists, “was the most painful scene I [had] ever seen in my life”. In addition to the distress the captives were suffering, though, the Wahhabi militants also “insulted [the] elderly women and children”. Subsequently, they “took our young girls and our cars and drove away”, she asserts.
Distraught about the deaths of the family’s male members, the women “cried heavily”, though they “could not bury [their] dead men… because [they] were afraid” of the ISIS invaders. “After a while”, she explains, “the elderly women decided to go to the mountain to save [their] children”. She, however, “refused to go with them and stayed with the corpses”, insisting that she now owned nothing “in this treacherous world after losing [her] only son”. The latter’s bride, meanwhile, had been sexually assaulted, while Khro’s daughter Samya had been taken away by the Wahhabi militants.
“I sat next to the body of my son”, Khro recounts, “cursing our situation”. Her husband, for example, had been “a prisoner in Iran for a long time”, and the couple had “suffered a lot” until their son and daughter had reached maturity. “We were happily living our simple life”, she explains, while speaking of how she had been “extremely happy” several months previously when her only son (her “hope in this world”) finally got married. Now, however, reflecting on how much joy she used to feel when her son would say ‘wa dake’ (or ‘hi mum’) to her, she felt she had lost everything, and even “asked the Lord to take [her] soul and release [her] from [her] pain”.
After shouting out to see if anyone was still alive (and receiving no response), she “sat next to the body of [her] son (Sami) and kissed his cheeks”, constantly asking him to respond. The horrific reality soon sank in, though, and it dawned on her that she would now “remain an orphan, an orphan without family, without a house, [and] without land”. Before she could do anything else, however, she was determined to take Sami to the tomb of Sheikh Mand (a religious place near a local farm) in order to bury him. “I tried to carry him on my back in the middle of the night”, she explains, having tied a handkerchief around her back as a belt, but she had no success.
“I was crying over the body the whole time”, she recalls, “and I remained there with him and the rest of the bodies in the darkness of the night, [refusing] to leave [her] son” alone. Having been close to him since his birth (often enquiring about how he was whenever he had to work late), she was resolved not to leave him now. Furthermore, as her requests for God to take her life had remained unanswered, she felt that she needed to bury him soon, so that his body would not be eaten by “hungry dogs” and so that she could visit him frequently.
After several attempts, she was able to carry her son’s body on her back. “After moving two steps forward”, however, “I fell down on my face”, she says. “I had lost my power”, she remembers, “and the corpse was too heavy”. Afraid of the fate of his corpse, surrounded by scattered body parts, and overwhelmed by the desolation and silence ISIS had left behind, she simply hugged the body “throughout the night” and kissed her deceased son’s cheeks. In the morning, she decided she could do nothing for her son, and instead set out to find her daughter Samya and her son’s widow. No-one was to be found.
Khro’s daughter Samya Jando, a secondary school student born in 2000, would eventually manage to escape from ISIS militants in Fallujah, and would speak about how, after isolating the young women and girls from the men and adult women on the farm, the Wahhabi extremists had taken her and other girls to Ciba Shikh Khider, Baaj, Tal Afar, and then Mosul.
“They took us to a large hall in a three-storey building near the place called “Ghabat” in Mosul. There were so many of us there. We stayed for a period of 7 days, and then they moved us to a four-storey house, before moving us out to several different locations. They took me and my colleague (Samira) to Fallujah”.
“The house where we stayed had two guards although, after a few days, one of guards went to Mosul. One day, when the guard went to pray, my colleague and I broke the door of the house, and we ran away. We went to Baghdad, and then to Erbil”.
“When I arrived in Erbil, I tried to call my brother, because I missed him too much, but his mobile was out of reach. I then tried to contact my mother, but could not reach her either. Later on, I finally saw my mother again in Dohuk, and immediately read from the gestures on her face that I had lost my brother. When we embraced each other, she said: ‘Oh, my daughter. We are all alone. We have lost all our family and relatives’. I then told her that I wanted to visit his grave, but she revealed that he did not even have one”.
“We live in extreme conditions of cruelty and pain”, asserts Samya. “We live in a world governed by savages, who taste the meat and blood of innocent and poor people who have never hurt anybody, and have never shown disrespect to any other religion. Long live Yezîdîs! Death and shame to the ISIS militants and their allies!”
Testimony translated into English by Professor Ivan Hasan Murad of Zakho University and edited by Oso Sabio