Gifts restore dignity to Islamic State victims

01 May 2015

REUTERS

Restored: members of the Yazidi sect greet each other, after 200 elderly and infirm Yazidi captives were released by Islamic State earlier this month

Restored: members of the Yazidi sect greet each other, after 200 elderly and infirm Yazidi captives were released by Islamic State earlier this mont...

A WOMAN from Brighton, who has organised collections of clothing and other items for Iraqis forced from their homes by Islamic State (IS), is starting a special campaign to help victims of sexual violence.

Samara Levy has despatched ten lorry-loads of aid to northern Iraq, and a container to Jordan. She is now calling for people across the UK, through their communities, to donate what she calls "care packs" for women and girls, pregnant women, new mothers, and other vulnerable groups.

"After the traumatic ordeals that many of them have been through, they now face a very bleak future. We are keen to send some of the basic things that these women will want and need, but be unable to buy, to restore some dignity."

Ms Levy, who is working in partnership with the Phoenix Resource Centre, has drawn up a list of products to include in the packs, all of which she asks should be new. They include soap, toothpaste, face flannels, towels, underwear, and sanitary items.

Arranging the collection of aid for Iraq has not always been easy. When Ms Levy ordered her first 90-cubic-meter container lorry, she realised that she had barely two cubic meters of donations. "My first thought was: 'What am I going to tell my vicar? I've let him down.'

"So I prayed, and thanks to God's help we managed to fill the lorry, and have some goods left over."

Ms Levy says that the fate of women in the Iraq conflict is often overlooked. She cites the women's director at Human Rights Watch, Liesl Gerntholtz, who said in a recently published report that IS forces "have committed organised rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yazidi women and girls. Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated for the unimaginable trauma they endured."

The report also stated that, out of the 20 women and girls they interviewed who had escaped IS, half, including two 12-year-old girls, said that they had been raped - some many times, and by several IS soldiers. Nearly all said that they had been forced into marriage, sold, or given as "gifts".

A UN Security Council report last month said that IS had established a pattern of sexual violence, slavery, abduction, and human trafficking. Trauma-counselling and reintegration support were inadequate, it said: the culture of the region makes it virtually impossible for women to speak out about sexual violence.

For more details, visit www.samarasaidappeal.org or telephone 07960 937 716

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