In August 2014, Islamic State insurgents advanced through northern Iraq, leaving thousands of local Yazidis slaughtered in their wake. Survivors from the Kurdish minority group fled to the mountains, but the extremists had other plans for the Yazidi women. Amid the trail of destruction, over three thousand daughters, mothers and grandmothers were seized and taken deep into Islamic State's heartland. Here, they were branded 'infidels', tortured, raped and sold into sexual slavery.
I'm a British Yazidi teenager, determined to help these women. I launched a petition on Change.org in July this year, calling for the UK government to intervene. At the time of writing, my petition has gained almost 200,000 signatories.
In 2008, my family and I left the village of Essia in northern Iraq to join my father in Coventry. It had become too dangerous to consider staying. There have always been political problems, but we, as a minority group, were increasingly becoming a target. By the time I was seven, it was normal to see the family's suitcases lined up by the front door, packed with a little food and water, ready for us to run. Everyday at school, I would hear bombs dropping and pray my family was safe.
Starting a new life in England spared me from this daily fear; but the girls I left behind were not so lucky. Last year, ISIS captured over 3000 Yazidi women and girls. Considered the 'spoils of war' and as 'non-believers' of Islam, those as young as nine were taken far away from their villages, to be traded and treated like cattle. In IS territory they are given as gifts, forced to marry militants and repeatedly raped. If they try to escape, they face brutal punishment, even death.
Those who have managed to return to their villages or surrounding refugee camps are often emotionally scarred and live in perpetual danger. Many cannot talk of their experiences; they go to bed and wake up with the constant fear they will be recaptured. I have heard of a nine-year-old girl who is now pregnant - her family worries her small body will not cope with the birth, but are terrified she won't survive an abortion. Stories like this break my heart, but also make me all the more determined to make a difference.
A few weeks ago, my father spoke to a fellow Yazidi desperate for our help. We decided to set up a petition on Change.org to let the world know what is really happening behind the scenes. The petition is asking for Home Secretary Theresa May, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, and Foreign Minister Philip Hammond to meet with me and the Yazidi community in the UK to prepare a plan of action.
I want the UK government to intervene and help with the rescue effort. It has been left to the Yazidi community, such as the lawyer Khaleel al-Dakhi (recently featured in the Channel 4 programme 'Escape from Isis'), to recover our sisters, daughters and mothers. Khaleel has managed to free 522 captives already - proving it is possible - but he is in desperate need of support. The girls and women that have escaped also require medical treatment - psychological as well as gynecological. It may seem like the Yazidis are thousands of miles away and therefore not our problem, but this is a crime against us all, a crime against humanity. We in Britain can offer so much help. It simply comes down to a matter of choice.
Yes, I'd like this petition to deliver practical steps, but I also want it to act as a beacon of hope. I want the Yazidi to know that the world has not turned its back on them. This petition can offer them something to believe in - a belief in Britain and the knowledge that there is more kindness than cruelty in the world. If the battle against ISIS is one of hearts and minds, then surely a campaign of hope is where we can start to win the fight?
The support so far has been overwhelming. At the time of writing this, almost 200,000 have signed my petition. Words can hardly describe how much this means to me. Launching a petition on Change.org has really changed my life - having the support of the British public has given me the confidence to speak out on behalf of the Yazidi women and continue to share their story. Without the Internet, none of this would have been possible and many people would still be in the dark about the horrors taking place.
I'm unsure if I can one hundred per cent make a difference to the Yazidi women and girls, but I know for certain I've got to try. I just can't let them down.
This article was originally published by The Brewery at freuds, in partnership Change.org. Read the full publication here.Suggest a correction