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[This talk contains mature content]
When I was 14,
my parents intended to marry me off to a man of their choosing.
I refused.
That choice to defy my family shaped everything in my life
and set me on the path to become who I am today.
But it was very painful at times and continues to be so.
My parents were raised in traditional, uneducated Moroccan families
where a girl's main value is measured by her virginity.
They emigrated to Belgium,
and I was born, raised and educated there.
I did not accept their view of the world.
When I said no to them,
I paid for it dearly in terms of physical and emotional abuse.
But eventually, I escaped from their home
and became a federal police detective
who could help protect the rights of others.
My specialty was investigating cases in counterterrorism,
child abduction and homicide.
I loved that work,
and it was extremely fulfilling.
With my Muslim background, Arabic language skills
and an interest in working internationally,
I decided to seek new challenges.
After decades of being a police officer,
I was recruited to become an investigator of sexual and gender-based violence
as a member of the Justice Rapid Response and UN Women roster.
Justice Rapid Response is an organization
for criminal investigations of mass atrocities.
They run on both public and private funding
and provide evidence and reports to more than 100 participating countries.
Many countries in conflict are often unable to provide a just process
to those who have been victims of mass violence.
To respond to that,
Justice Rapid Response was created in partnership with UN Women.
Justice Rapid Response and UN Women recruited, trained and certified
more than 250 professionals
with a specific expertise in sexual and gender-based violence,
like me.
Our investigations are carried out under international law,
and our findings eventually become evidence to prosecute war criminals.
This mechanism provides hope to victims
that justice and accountability may someday be found
in the wake of war and conflict.
Let me tell you about the most challenging work I have ever done.
This was in Iraq.
Since the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS,
this group has systematically attacked and tortured
many religious minorities and ethnicities,
such as the Christians,
the Shia Turkmen, Shia Muslims, Shia Shabaks and the Yazidis.
The persecution of the Yazidis has been especially horrific.
On the 3rd and 15th of August 2014,
ISIS attacked approximately 20 villages and towns in Sinjar, Iraq.
They executed all the males over the age of 14,
including the elderly and disabled.
They divided up the women and girls,
raped them
and sold them into sexual and domestic slavery.
One month later,
a UN Human Rights Council resolution led to the fact-finding mission on Iraq
to investigate and document alleged violations and abuses
committed by ISIS and associated groups.
I was sent to investigate the atrocities committed against the Yazidis,
with a focus on sexual and gender-based crimes.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking ethnoreligious community
based in Northern Iraq.
Their belief system incorporates aspects of Judaism, Christianity,
Islam and Zoroastrianism.
For hundreds of years,
Muslims and Christians who do not understand their beliefs
have condemned the Yazidis as devil worshippers.
ISIS thought of them in this way and vowed to destroy them.
OK, let's do an experimental thought here.
I want you to think about your worst sexual experience
and recall it in detail.
Now turn to the person to your right
and describe that experience.
I know it's difficult, eh?
But, of course, I don't expect you to do that.
You would all be uncomfortable and embarrassed.
And so imagine an 11-year-old girl in the Middle East
who was not educated about sexuality,
who was taken from her comfort zone,
her family,
who witnessed the execution of her father and brothers,
having to describe in detail
the rape that she faced in a culture where talking about sexuality is taboo.
Her only way of recovering her honor is to hide the crime,
believe she was married against her will,
or deny the events out of shame and fear of being rejected.
I interviewed a girl who I will call "Ayda."
She was purchased by an ISIS leader, or emir,
together with 13 other girls aged between 11 and 18 years old.
Amongst the group were her three nieces and two cousins.
The 14 girls were taken to a house full of ISIS fighters.
An imam was present who made it clear that their religion was wrong,
and the only good path was to accept Islam and marry a Muslim man.
The emir wrote the names of the girls on 14 small pieces of paper.
Two ISIS fighters would pick a piece of paper each.
They would call out the name written on the paper,
and those girls were forcibly taken into another room.
While the emir and the imam heard the two girls screaming
as they were being raped,
they began laughing.
Both were telling the other girls
that the two girls should enjoy the experience instead of screaming.
After a while, the girls were brought back into the room.
They were in shock and were bleeding.
They confirmed that they had been married and suffered a lot of pain.
It is important to consider the fact that they had been raised
to believe in sexual intercourse with one man in their lifetime:
their husband.
The only connection that they could make in their shocked state
is to define their rape as marriage.
Before the next two girls were taken to be raped,
Ayda made a terrifying decision.
As the oldest of the group, she convinced the emir
to let them use the bathroom in order to wash themselves before marriage.
Ayda had been told by one of the girls
that she noticed rat poison in the bathroom.
The 14 girls decided to end their suffering
by drinking the poison.
Before the poison took full effect,
they were discovered by ISIS and taken to the hospital,
where they survived.
ISIS decided to separate the girls
and sell them individually.
Ayda was taken to another house and brutally raped
after she attempted again to kill herself with her headscarf.
She was beaten and raped every two days.
After four months in captivity,
Ayda found the courage to escape.
She never saw the other 13 girls again.
I interviewed Ayda multiple times.
She was willing to speak to me because she had heard from other victims
that there was a woman from the UN who understood her complicated culture.
I looked into her eyes
and listened deeply to the stories of her darkest hours.
We established a personal connection that continues to this day.
My upbringing made it easy for me to understand her extreme sense of shame
and her fear of being rejected.
These types of investigations are not only about gathering information and evidence,
but they're also about victim support.
The bonds I established with the victims
strengthens their confidence and willingness to seek justice.
As she considered her escape,
Ayda, like all Yazidi survivors,
faced a dilemma:
Should she continue to suffer the abuse of her captors,
or would it be better to return home,
where she would face shame, rejection
and possibly honor killing?
I know all too well the pain of being rejected
by my Moroccan community in Belgium,
and I did not want this to happen to the Yazidi community.
So a group of concerned entities,
including the UN, NGOs, politicians and members of the Yazidi community
approached a religious leader,
Baba Sheikh.
After many meetings,
he realized that these girls had not disrespected their religion
by being forcibly converted to Islam
and married to ISIS fighters.
Instead, they have been abducted, raped and sexually enslaved.
I am happy to report that, after our meetings,
Baba Sheikh announced publicly
that the survivors should be treated as victims
and embraced by the community.
This message was heard throughout the community
and eventually reached the survivors being held captive by ISIS.
After his declaration of support,
the survivors were motivated to escape from ISIS
as Ayda has done,
and many young Yazidi women took the bold step
and returned home to their communities.
Baba Sheikh's public pronouncement
saved the lives of many young Yazidi women,
both in captivity and after their escape.
Sadly, not all religious leaders agreed to talk with us.
Some victims had far worse outcomes than the Yazidis.
For example, only 43 of the 500-600 victims
from the Shia Turkmen community
were able to return home after escaping ISIS.
Some of them were advised by their family
to stay with ISIS
or commit suicide in order to save the honor of the family.
Germany established a project to support survivors of ISIS
by providing psychosocial support and housing for 1,100 women and children,
including Ayda.
I visited Ayda several times during my work.
I am so proud of her and the other victims.
The progress they have made is remarkable.
It is really moving to see how many of them,
despite their struggles,
have benefited from this program.
The program includes individual and group counseling,
art therapy, music therapy,
sport activities,
language courses,
school and other integration efforts.
What I observed was that removing the victims
from an area of conflict to a country at peace
had a positive impact on all of them.
This project caught the attention of other countries,
and they were interested to help more Yazidis.
The Yazidi women and girls still call and text me
to tell me about their grades at school,
fun trips they've taken,
or to inform me about their future dreams,
like writing a book about what they have faced with ISIS.
Sometimes they are sad
and feel the need to talk again about the events.
I'm not a psychologist,
and I have faced secondary PTSD from their horrific stories.
But I keep encouraging them to talk,
and I keep listening,
because I do not want them to feel alone in their suffering.
Through these anecdotes,
I see a bigger picture emerging.
These women and girls are healing.
They are no longer afraid to seek justice.
Without hope there can be no justice,
and without justice there can be no hope.
Every 3rd and 15th of August, it's my remembrance day,
and I reach out to the Yazidis to let them know that I'm thinking about them.
They're always happy when I do that.
It's an emotional day for them.
This past August, I spoke with Ayda.
She was so happy to announce
that one of her nieces who was abducted with her
was finally released out of ISIS hands in Syria
and returned to Iraq.
Can you believe that?
After four years?
Today, her biggest wish is for her whole family,
now located across three continents,
to be reunited.
And I hope they will.
When I think about the survivors I work with,
I remember the words of an Egyptian doctor, writer
and human rights activist,
Nawal El Saadawi.
In her book, "Woman at Point Zero,"
she wrote, "Life is very hard,
and the only people who really live
are those who are harder than life itself."
These victims have been through unimaginable pain.
But with a little help,
they show how resilient they are.
Each has their own perspective on what kind of justice she seeks,
and I believe deeply
that a credible justice process is key
to how she reclaims her dignity
and finds closure with her trauma.
Justice is not only about punishing the perpetrator.
It's about victims feeling that crimes committed against them
have been recorded and recognized by the rule of law.
For me, it has been the experience of a lifetime
to work with these survivors.
Because I share their sorrow,
their language and their culture,
we connect on the deepest human level.
This itself is an act of healing:
to be heard, to be seen,
to be given compassion instead of condemnation.
When we get so close to people in pain,
it creates pain for the investigators, too.
My work is challenging, heartbreaking and trauma-inducing.
But let me tell you why I do it.
When I meet the survivors of these mass atrocities,
when I hold their hands and look in their eyes,
it does not erase my own pain,
but it does make it almost worthwhile.
And there's nothing I would rather be doing.
When I see these brave survivors
struggling to connect again to their own self-worth,
to their families, to their place in a society that values them,
it is an honor to bear witness;
it is a privilege to seek justice.
And that is healing, too --
for all of us.
Thank you.


【TED】Hope and justice for women who've survived ISIS | Rabiaa El Garani

119 分類 收藏
林宜悉 發佈於 2019 年 12 月 6 日
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