Rape and Forced Conversion, How One Woman Survived ISIS

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Nuri Kino, Contributor
Independent investigative multi-award-winning reporter, filmmaker, author, Middle East and human rights analyst
Photo: Gozarto Bethnahrin Women’s Organization
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has saved an Assyrian/Syriac woman who had been missing for three years. She hails from Qaraqosh in the Nineveh Plains, Northern Iraq-the part of the country where the indigenous community was nearly wiped out following the invasion of ISIS.

Rita Habib Ayyoub was rescued from a village close to the city of Deir ez-Zur in Syria. While anxiously awaiting a reunion with her family in Iraq, she is being cared for by an Assyrian/Syriac women’s organization in northeast Syria.

“When ISIS invaded Qaraqosh, my father and I were kidnapped by the terrorists. They took us to a hospital in the city of Mosul. They split the women and the men up. I haven’t heard anything about my father since.”

Qaraqosh, also known as Baghdede, was emptied of it’s Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean Christian population when ISIS invaded in the summer of 2014. Most managed to flee. Others disappeared without a trace. The fear was that all those who were missing had been killed, but some have miraculously been rescued, a majority of whom have been found in Iraq.

Rita Habib Ayyub is the first known survivor to have been found in Syria. In an interview conducted earlier today by Gozarto Bethnahrin of Syria, the Assyrian/Christian women’s organization, she shared details of the horrors she encountered at the hands of the terrorists over the last three years.

“My name is Rita. The terrorists changed my name to Maria. I am 30 years old. In the hospital in Mosul, we women were subjected to the most degrading abuse. Three children from my people were with me, and I witnessed them being sold to emirs in Mosul. I was sold to Abu Mus’ab al-Iraqi. In his home, there was also a Yazidi girl from Sinjar named Shata…she was only 14 years old. He raped the both of us over and over again.”

The ISIS leaders are called emirs. The rapes and sexual abuse was not enough. The emir, Abu Mus’ab, enjoyed torturing them in more ways than that. She continued.

“He made us watch videos with terrorists slaughtering non-Muslims. In one of them, they were beheading Shata’s brother.”

After half a year, he got tired of Rita and felt that it was time to earn some money off of her.

“After six months, Abu Mus’ab sold me to another terrorist, and I was transported to Raqqa, Syria. But he did not keep me…he sold me to a third terrorist, a Saudi named Abu Khalid al-Saudi.”

In the Al-Saudi household, she was routinely beaten severely by the terrorist’s first wife. And the quest to forcefully convert her to Islam began again.

“Abu Khalid was married to a woman from Morocco. I was beaten and tortured by her every day. She would not give up until I was bleeding, from my head, for example. They made me read the Quran and threatened to kill me if I did not convert to Islam.”

A few months later, she was sold again.

“After four months in Raqqa, I was transported to Abu Kamal, on the border between Syria and Iraq. I was there for a year and four months, then I was moved once more, this time to the village of outside of Deir ez-Zur.”

It was there that the SDF managed to rescue Rita.

*Babilona Khosravi from Sweden, Diana Sarkisian from Australia and Nathan Kalasho from USA contributed to this report