They escaped ISIS. Then They Got Sucked Into Baghdad’s Sex Trafficking Underworld

August 19, 2019

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) Nadia’s handshake is strong, but her voice trembles as she says hello. Leaning against a window, she describes in painful detail the twisted journey that saw her evade the grip of terrorists only to fall victim to Baghdad’s sex trafficking underworld.

Stories like Nadia’s have become all too familiar in the wake of ISIS’ defeat in Iraq. The decline of the militant group has given rise to another evil: human trafficking networks that thrive on the spoils of war, the displaced and the desperate.

And she was the perfect mark.

Nadia was living in Sinjar, northern Iraq, in 2014 when ISIS rounded up thousands of women and girls like her from the Yazidi ethnic minority and forced them into sexual slavery. But she says she managed to escape, fleeing with her family through scattered hills to an IDP camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. CNN is not using Nadia’s real name out of concerns for her safety.

Still, she was haunted by the fate of others who were not as lucky. She said she started sending money to a man she believed was a trusted friend, who she had met while on the run from ISIS and who said he was coordinating humanitarian aid for other Yazidis. Encouraged by their conversations and propelled by her desire to help, she began organizing demonstrations at the camp, demanding the release of Yazidi women.

Then the calls started. “I would get the threats by phone,” Nadia said, explaining that she wasn’t sure who was harassing her. “I wasn’t afraid for myself, but for my little sister. They said, ‘If you don’t come, we know where your sister goes to school.'”

When she received a letter from an NGO supporting her application for asylum in the United States, she reached out to her friend, asking for help to get to the embassy in Baghdad. “He said, ‘My sister, I can take you. I know a guy in the Iraqi parliament, I can take you to him.'”
On the road to the capital, she sensed something was wrong. “He kept stopping to talk on the phone and send messages,” she told CNN. “I said, ‘Take me back, I want to go back.’ He said, ‘No, it’s ok, it is about a group of Yazidi girls I freed from Fallujah, they are waiting for us in Baghdad.'”

To read the full story by Arwa Damon, Ghazi Balkiz, Brice Laine and Aqeel Najm on CNN: Click Here

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