Yazidi Woman Freed by Syrian Democratic Forces from ISIS Captivity

During a counterinsurgency operation, Kurdish fighters with the US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported rescuing a Yazidi woman on Monday who had been held captive by the Islamic State terrorist group for more than a decade.

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The SDF initiated the raid, code-named Operation Humanity and Security 3, on Friday, targeting the vast al-Hol camp in northeast Syria. Situated at the center of former Islamic State territory and once accommodating approximately 73,000 individuals, the camp is predominantly occupied by supporters and families of Islamic State fighters.

According to the SDF, the Yazidi woman, along with her son and daughter, were liberated by the Women’s Protection Units, also known as the YPJ, on Sunday. She informed the YPJ that she is originally from the Yazidi village of Hardan in Iraq’s Sinjar region. However, like thousands of other women, she was abducted and enslaved in 2014 during the rise of the Islamic State.

In a video released by the YPJ, the woman disclosed that she endured rape and forced marriage to IS fighters before being transported to al-Hol in 2019. There, she was prohibited from disclosing her Yazidi identity or real name.

A relative kisses a Yazidi survivor boy following his release from Islamic State militants in Syria, in Duhok, Iraq, March 2, 2019. (credit: ARI JALAL / REUTERS)

Geographic context to the raid

The al-Hol camp, guarded and patrolled by the SDF, is regarded by the US-aligned Kurdish militia as a breeding ground for extremism. Primarily housing Syrians and Iraqis, the camp features a distinct section known as “the Annex,” where the most radical, foreign-born IS sympathizers are situated.

The SDF reported the detention of at least 36 individuals during the raid, including 21 IS-affiliated “operatives” on Friday alone. Additionally, tunnels, explosives, and other materials associated with terrorism were uncovered.