— NRC (@nrc) June 8, 2017
‘Debating center’ ‘De Balie’ in Amsterdam is protesting the way the Dutch state handled its request to allow the Yazidi Parween Alhinto (19) into the Netherlands. Alhinto, a former prisoner and slave of Islamic State, spoke about her experiences in Syria on 6 June in Amsterdam. But according to De Balie, it was very difficult to even get her into the country.
It took a tug-of-war of almost a year, and mediation by a journalist and a Dutch diplomat in Erbil, Northern Iraq, to arrange for a visa. Because the government feared Alhinto would apply for asylum while in the Netherlands, De Balie was forced to stand bail to the amount of €10,000 to cover the cost of any medical expenses and the costs for repatriation that might be incurred by the state. If she were to apply for asylum, De Balie would be liable for €50,000 over the course of five years.
Even though the Ministery of Foreign Affairs say that this is the standard procedure, De Balie director Yoeri Albrecht is incensed by the course of events. He points out that the Refugee Convention is pre-eminently aimed at young women like Alhinto. He believes that the regulation discourages invitations to people, telling an important story:
“Who would have more right to be protected [by this treaty] than she? It is extremely bizarre. It is tantamount to censorship on this subject.“
Parween Alhinto’s story is worth hearing. She is one of an estimated 3000 to 4000 women kidnapped by IS and used in a most dreadful way. Alhinto says she lead a calm life in the Iraqi village of Rambose, living among the Arabs and playing with their children:
“but when IS arrived in our village, they betrayed us. The members of IS did not know who exactly was a Yezidi. But the Arabs pointed us out. That came as a shock for me.“
It was the beginning of a long period of suffering for Alhinto and the other Yezidi’s. She was taken, together with other young girls, some barely 10 years old, to IS-fighters in Mosul. There she was raped and treated as merchandise.
“If they tired of you after three or four days, they passed you on to someone else. (…) We were their ‘pleasure moment’ when they got back from the front. They did to use whatever they wanted. At one point they told us: you have to shower. Two sisters, Jilan and Jihan, cut their veins. We saw the blood stream from underneath the door. (…) They forced us to read the Qu’ran and pray. They told us: our religion allows us to do this. You are Yezidi’s, you’re ours. And then the rapes started again.“
The kidnappings and rapes have lead to a destabilisation of the Yezidi community, which counts just 300.000 souls. It has to make special efforts to rescue and reintegrate all the victims of IS, or face extinction. And the Yezidi women’s ordeal is not yet over. Alhinto herself has lost 44 members of her family to IS and hasn’t been in contact with over half of them, including her parents. She would love to see a treatment centre to be built in Northern-Iraq to help girls like her and hopes that the Dutch government could help to make her dream come true.
Two years after her escape, Alhinto is still haunted by her traumatic experiences, not sleeping or being tormented by nightmares when she does.
“The images of bearded men, abusing me, they are stuck in my head. I really hope that the men who did this are apprehended and brought to justice.“
While the Dutch government is imposing barriers to Parween Alhinto to come to the Netherlands and tell her story, it fails to effectively protect women like her, women in its care, from experiencing the same kind of horrors.
Every care is taken to ensure Alhinto goes back to Northern Iraq, where she was imprisoned and treated like a slave. Meanwhile, a rapist from Mogadishu isn’t even subjected to a DNA test that would have proven he raped a woman in the country that gives him a resident permit.