Extremist jihadis of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Thursday executed 19 Yezidi girls by burning them to death, activists and eyewitnesses reported.
The victims, who had been taken by ISIS jihadis as sex slaves, were placed in iron cages in central Mosul and burned to death in front of hundreds of people.
"They were punished for refusing to have sex with ISIS militants," local media activist Abdullah al-Malla told ARA News.
"The 19 girls were burned to death, while hundreds of people were watching. Nobody could do anything to save them from the brutal punishment," an eyewitness told ARA News in Mosul.
In August 2014, ISIS radicals took over the Yezidi region of Shingle in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape cases, according to local and military sources. Also, more than 3,000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves.
On Nov. 13, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, backed by an air cover from the U.S.-led coalition forces, announced the liberation of the entire Yezidi district of Shingal in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after fierce battles with ISIS extremists. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis. Yet, thousands of Yezidi women remain in ISIS captivity after being sold as sex slaves across the group's territory in Iraq and Syria.
Human Rights Watch called on ISIS to urgently release Yezidi women and girls abducted since 2014. "The longer they are held by ISIS, the more horrific life becomes for Yezidi women, bought and sold, brutally raped, their children torn from them," said Skye Wheeler, women's rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.
According to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria continue to hold about 1,800 abducted Yezidi women and girls.
The United Nations has cited allegations, based on Yezidi officials' estimates, that as many as 3,500 people remained in ISIS captivity as of October 2015.
"Many of the abuses, including torture, sexual slavery and arbitrary detention, would be war crimes if committed in the context of the armed conflict, or crimes against humanity if they were part of ISIS policy during a systematic or widespread attack on the civilian population," the HRW said. "The abuses against Yezidi women and girls documented by Human Rights Watch, including the practice of abducting women and girls and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, may be part of a genocide against Yezidis."
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