Home Important News Bought and sold 20 times, but no-one’s slave: Hayfa Adi’s story

Bought and sold 20 times, but no-one’s slave: Hayfa Adi’s story

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Hayfa Adi is not demanding justice, though few deserve it more.

At the age of 17, she was abducted by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, held for more than two years and repeatedly raped, beaten and traded like livestock.

“They bought us as if we were sheep. Exactly like sheep,” Hayfa tells 7.30.

More important for this young mother, as she rebuilds her family’s life in south-eastern Queensland, is finding out what happened to her husband, Ghazi Lalo.

Not knowing is “very hard, very hard on us all”, she says.

The couple’s eldest son was just a toddler when Ghazi disappeared.

“He remembers his father and keeps asking, ‘Mum, when will my father come back?'”

Their youngest never knew his dad. He was born in ISIS captivity.

“He looks just like his father — his eyes, his mouth. When I see him, I feel like my husband is with me,” she says.

“We just have to find a way to survive.”

A normal lunch turns into the last supper

It is five years since Hayfa’s family was torn apart in the ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq and Syria.

Seven thousand members of the ethnic and religious minority were killed and 3,000 went missing.

Hayfa, heavily pregnant, was at home in the village of Kocho with Ghazi and their first-born son.

“I had made lunch and we were ready to eat,” she says.

“Around midday, there was knocking on the door.

“My husband’s uncle came running to us saying, ‘ISIS is in Kocho.'”

Islamic militants herded the town’s 1,200 residents into the local school.

“They ordered us to convert to Islam. No-one converted to Islam. After that they took the men. We don’t know where they took them,” she says.

Witnesses have told the United Nations the men were taken away and shot.

Despite the reports, Hayfa clings to the hope “that I will see my husband and become happy again”.

But on that fateful day in August 2014, the horror had only just begun for Hayfa and the other Yazidi women and girls.

For more than two years, Hayfa was traded amongst Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, bought and sold “maybe 20 times”.

“A lot of people took me, tortured me, hit me,” she says.

She stood up to her captors whenever she could, defying their orders to undress for prospective buyers.

“I refused to show them my body,” she says.

“We had to show our hands. White was considered nice. And they’d look to see if our hair was beautiful and long.”

Hayfa was repeatedly raped, but her biggest fear was losing her children.

“They took my eldest son from me for one month because I wouldn’t sleep with my captors,” she says.

“They tied my hands and legs, blindfolded me and gagged my mouth. They hit me and kept me locked in a room.

“After that I let them sleep with me so I could get my son back.”

‘Very comfortable here with my kids’

Hayfa and her sons finally escaped ISIS when her parents-in-law paid a people smuggler to buy her freedom.

They arrived in Toowoomba, Queensland on humanitarian visas last year, joining a growing Yazidi community of more than 800 people.

The boys go to the local kindergarten and school, and Hayfa is learning English at TAFE.

“I’m very comfortable here with my kids,” she says.

“The most important thing is my children’s lives, not mine. And of course if my husband comes back, my life would be really great.”

But the chances of that are slim, according to Australian Red Cross worker Sue Callender, who is trying to discover Ghazi’s fate.

She is part of the humanitarian agency’s Tracing Team, which works to reconnect people who have been separated by conflict, migration or disasters.

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