A girl who escaped ISIS shares her horrifying experience

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A sad picture of girls carrying their 'price tags', waiting to be sold by ISIS militants

  I found this very sad story on CNN and I decided to share it because I feel it’s important to tell personal stories, to let the world know what particular individuals are going through and why they should care.
       Dohuk, Iraq  “Aria” is only 15, smiling as she greets and welcomes us into her family’s tent inside the Khanke refugee camp in northwest Iraq. Her parents sit nearby. Their faces, with their weathered skin and deep lines, speak of a difficult life that has just become much harder. Blankets and mattresses are stacked up on one side, except for a few that we sit on while a small fan gently
whirls, creating a slight breeze in the stifling heat.
     The refugee camp, outside the town of Duhok, was created just last month by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) for the massive influx of Yazidis fleeing their homes in Sinjar from the ISIS onslaught. I ask Aria if she will tell us her story. She nods and then looks at her elderly parents and asks them to leave the tent. She doesn’t want them to hear what she’s about to say.
       Six weeks ago the family piled into their neighbor’s car in the early morning hours. They heard ISIS was coming and they were desperately trying to escape from their home in Sinjar. They got on the road, but a convoy of vehicles with black flags flying drove past them. They thought they had got away until minutes later when at least seven ISIS vehicles appeared on the road, surrounding them.
       “They forced us out of the car,” said Aria. “The girls and women were separated from the men including my 19-year-old brother. But they only took the girls forcing us into a minivan.”
                        Horrific conditions
          From Sinjar, Aria, her 14-year-old sister-in-law and a handful of other girls were driven 120 kilometers to the stronghold of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city captured by ISIS back in June. They were taken to a three-story
house where they were locked with dozens of other teenage girls who’d been captured.
      “In Mosul they tried to make us change our faith and religion,” she said. “They said to us, ‘Read our Quran.’ A couple of the girls said, ‘We never went to school – we can’t read.’ I couldn’t understand the Quran.”
For more than three weeks, Aria stayed here under horrific conditions. During this time, a sheik came and collected 20 girls including her 14-year-old sister-in-law.
    “He forced himself on her. I was so scared. A lot of my friends were raped. It’s hard to talk about it.”
Sexual abuse is a taboo subject in this culture and to admit being a victim is unheard of. I gently ask Aria if she was also raped. She looks straight ahead, staring at the wall and shakes her head. It’s clear the teenager has been visibly
traumatized.
    “I see their faces all the time,” Aria said. “I have nightmares. I can’t stop thinking about how they forced themselves onto the girls. I have seen and been through too much.”
                           
                                       Shame
         Tanya Kareem, UNHCR Duhok director, explains how difficult it is for girls like Aria to talk about what has happened to them.
“Even if these girls and women are released I think it’s impossible for them to talk about their painful ordeal. They are traumatized. And they’re from a society, a culture that does not accept what this means for the family. It brings so much shame so they just don’t talk about it.”
Aria and her friend were then taken to Fallujah by two ISIS militants she calls Abu Hassan and Abu Jaffar.
       “They were really filthy. They had long beards; they were really tall and big. Even men would be scared of them. They forced us to marry them, threatening to hurt us if we didn’t. They gave us a phone to call our families to tell them we’d converted.”
Using this phone, they secretly called her friend’s uncle who knew people in Fallujah who were prepared to help. When the militants left the house, the girls – dressed in niqabs — escaped.
       “My friend and I thought about killing ourselves. But we decided to ask my friend’s uncle for help to escape. He had friends living in Fallujah, but they couldn’t come to the house and rescue us, so we broke the door, put on veils, and walked for about an hour and met at a place where my friend’s uncle’s friends were waiting for us. They took us to a safe house in Fallujah.”
But when she was reunited with her family in this refugee camp, she suffered once again.
     “I didn’t know that my brother had been killed. That made me very sad. I only had one brother. He was only married for six months. I was sad to hear this. They killed him and other men when they took me. They shot him in the head. My mother slept next to my brother’s body all night.”
       Aria doesn’t want to stay at the camp. Everyone knows what happened to her and she says they gossip and look at her whenever she goes outside. But her shame is dwarfed by her guilt after learning what happened to the other girls once ISIS discovered they’d fled.
      “They raped them because we escaped. That was the punishment. They tightened security so no girls can escape anymore.
“I have to live with that.”

We MUST End Child Labour

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       “The World is presently not a total disaster because few good people refuse to keep silent.”…. Lotenna Olisa
     That is a quote by me and it was inspired by the work of the joint winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi who have both struggling to promote the rights of children around the globe.
      In most countries, particularly African, Asian and Carribean countries, young children are subjected to various forms of child labour and in most cases, this robs them of getting an education. Child labour I’m talking about here includes street hawking, apprenticeship, prostitution and even fighting as soldiers. These young children are usually forced or have no choice. They are either trying to complement what their very poor parents earn or are simply being used. That is why it is very necessary for us to take it upon ourselves to speak for them, to fight for them, just like the Nobel Peace Prize winners for this year are doing.
      There are about 168 million children around the world subjected to various form of child labour, some of them constituting child abuse. Most are involved in work so hazardous – such as in mines, as child soldiers, or involving dangerous chemicals or drugs that directly endangers their health, safety, and development The rest are toiling in places such as farms, other families’ homes, or factories. The most painful of all, to me, is the innocent children subject to the mental torture and traumatic experiences that serving as child soldiers bring. Imaging little children, some under the age of twelve, forced to carry guns, take up weapons and engage in deadly combat which most of them don’t survive. The one that do are most likely scarred for life. Is this not the height of inhumanity?!
       Another disheartening statistics: 121 million children around the world are out of school. Some factors that contribute to this are child labour, discriminatory policies against the female child, early marriage which is the culture of some groups, especially in Africa, attacks on schools by militant groups, as seen in Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and the Philippines, sexual harrasment in schools, amongst others.  The very sad reality is that these children are deprived of education and this limits their opportunities and they end up not contributing effectively to the society as they should if they have been educated. Most of them end up poor.
      Child labor may look like a short-term solution to economic hardship, but it’s actually a cause of poverty. People who start work as children end up with less education and lower earnings as adults. They are then more likely to send their own children to work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.
     An internationally agreed-upon timetable to end the worst forms of child labor by 2016 is lagging. We should make it a priority. No child deserves to suffer or be deprived of a good future. Governments must take the fight against child labour and other forms of child abuse very seriously. Children are supposed to be the hope of any nation but imagine a situation where the children themselves are hopeless.
     God bless activists and campaigners around the world who have refused to keep silent and are fighting tirelessly to end child labour and child abuse around the world. We all have a part to play. If we all speak out, we have a greater chance of being heard. #EndChildLabourToday
      
     

Is the U.S ready to deal with Ebola on its soil?

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   The United States, as any other country fell into panic when the first case of Ebola was reported on its soil. The Patient Zero, as we know, was a Liberian American, Thomas Eric Duncan who flew into the country from Liberia. There was a little anger about the handling of the ‘patient zero’ with many condemning the health system for failing to take the patient’s travel record into account while initially treating him. This development prompted the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) into action, to ensure that an outbreak was prevented. The C.D.C even sent a group of experts to Nigeria to learn how the country was able to contain the virus, since the World Health Organization had earlier declared Nigeria Ebola free.
    Now, a Dallas health worker, a nurse to be precise has been infected with the virus after been involved with treating Thomas Duncan. This has again sparked more anger and speculations that the United States is not ready or well prepared to deal with Ebola on its soil. The Director of CDC, Dr Thomas Friedman came under serious fire and was heavily criticized for blaming the nurse. He said in a press release that a ‘breach i protocol’ on the path of the nurse resulted in her contracting the disease. But critics, whom I agree with, were fast to point out that he was ‘scape-goating’ the nurse instead of dealing with his agency’s failure to introduce a rigorous set of procedures for hospitals across the country.
     Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United said, ‘when there’s an outbreak, you don’t scape goat anyone! We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct.’
Dr. Macgregor-Skinner, who helped the Nigerian government train healthcare workers when the Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer brought Ebola to the country said;
‘Blaming the nurse is just wrong. We haven’t provided them with a national training program. We haven’t provided them with the necessary experts that have actually worked in hospitals with Ebola,’
    It is obvious, however, that there have been institutional failures in handling the Ebola crisis in America. This, to me, might be a little forgivable giving that the U.S has never witnessed any Ebola case and their health workers are not well trained and equipped to handle Ebola victims. However, for a country which has spent millions of dollars in aiding Ebola hit countries in West Africa like Liberia and Sierra Leone, better prevention and preparation for any outbreak should have been done. For instance, How come the health workers didn’t take into account Thomas Duncan’s travel history? Why didn’t they test him for Ebola when he showed similar symptoms, having told them he came in from Liberia, one of the worst hit Ebola countries? Instead, they just treated him normally and discharged him. The answer is obvious! They were not at alert. They possibly felt that Ebola wasn’t a direct threat to them or would come knocking on their door steps. They obviously know better.
       America, however cannot afford anymore institutional failures as it may prove disastrous. A second person is already being kept under close monitoring after having close contact with the infected nurse and 48 other health workers might have also been exposed to the deadly virus. The CDC director also said that more cases of Ebola could be seen in coming days. So, Ebola in the US is no child’s play and everything should be done to kick it out, as Nigeria successfully did.

Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize: A well deserved recognition

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         I’m so thrilled that my ‘role model’, the brilliant and courageous Malala Yousufzai won the Nobel Peace Prize 2014. A million congratulations to her. I’m very moved and inspired by her fearless fight to defend girls’ rights to education around the world. I remember that Malala has once been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize before which she didn’t win. I’m glad that she won it this time. She really deserved it.
      Malala and the Indian children’s rights activist,  Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” Malala wining the award is tremendously remarkable because she is the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize, at the age of 17. To think that she’s my age mate though. I hope I get the opportunity to defend human rights fearlessly on an international level like she’s doing.  Well, I’m contributing my little bit with this blog.

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      I remember when Malala visited Nigeria over the kidnapped Chibok girls. I was very inspired by her genuine care for these girls. She referred to them as ‘my sisters’ and promised their parents she would speak to the President on their behalf, which she did.

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      I respect Malala’s incredible work and struggle for the girl child education around the world. This Nobel Peace Prize is indeed a well deserved recognition.

What you need to know about the ISIS

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    The deadliest and most brutal terrorist organization in the world. They are known as ISIS, ISIL or as they are now called, Islamic State, operating mainly in Iraq and Syria. I’ve been concerned about the terrible crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Islamic State and I have written a number of posts about them, most popular being “Pictures of Brutal Killings by ISIS in Iraq“, explaining what they do and why people should be concerned. The Islamic State is so brutal that even Al Qaeda denounced them.
     A concerned blog reader, Erin Gentry, who found me via Twitter sent me an email hoping I’ll share. He shared a very educating and informative infographic that explains what we need to know about the ISIS (Islamic State). I recommend it an you all can view it here Islamic State: What you need to know infographic   If that might be too much stress, you can click on the image below and learn important things about the ISIS, their rise to power and why they are a huge threat to the world.

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What You need to know about the Islamic State

     Recently, I also learnt about how the ISIS brutally raped and beat hundreds of Yazidi girls when they attacked dozens of Yazidi villages last month. Please click on the link to read the whole story. It is very terrible and sickening. The radical Islamist raped these girls brutally and forced them to watch as they beheaded or shot dead men from their villages. This is a horribly grave violation of human rights. It is a war crime, a crime against humanity! The world cannot afford to sit back and watch the Islamic State achieve their devilish goals.