Former Isis Yazidi sex slaves take up arms for revenge, to win back Mosul and ‘bring our women home’

‘We have a lot of our women in Mosul being held as slaves. Their families are waiting for them. The liberation might help bring them home’


Yazidi soldiers cheer a fallen comrade on November 15, 2015 near Sinjar, Iraq Getty Images

An armed brigade made up entirely of former Yazidi sex slaves has joined ranks with the Kurdish Peshmerga to take back Mosul from Isis and “bring our women home”.

In a region with a proud history of all-female fighting forces, the Yazidi brigade has seen its numbers bolstered in recent weeks as more and more women break free from the Isis jihadist group’s oppressive regime.

Speaking in an interview with Fox News, the brigade’s leader Captain Khatoon Khider said there are 500 recruits awaiting training to join the 123 who have already taken their place alongside the Peshmerga on the front line.


Iraqi Yezidi women are seen during a military training in the garden of the Yezidi Conference Hall in Sahriya, Dohuk

The brigade has become known as the “Force of the Sun Ladies”, and it is already battle-hardened after helping to take back Sinjar from Isis and continuing to guard its mountain home.

They are just some of the 2,000 Yazidi women who were captured and forced into sexual slavery when Isis raided Mount Sinjar in 2014 – but the UN estimates Isis still holds an estimated 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority being Yazidi women and girls.

While the Iraqi army is not yet ready to take the fight to Isis in Mosul, the Kurds have taken up positions within miles of the jihadists’ stronghold, preparing for an assault.

Captain Khider said the brigade played a support role on 13 November last year, when their hometowns were taken back from Isis occupation, engaging in direct combat and helping to clear streets.

She says they know taking Mosul will be the real test – but it is one that is important to the Yazidis for more than just strategic reasons.

“We have a lot of our women in Mosul being held as slaves,” she said. “Their families are waiting for them. We are waiting for them. The liberation might help bring them home.”

Freed from slavery and daily rape, trained by the Kurds and now fighting to defend their homelands, the Force of the Sun Ladies has become “an elite force and a model for other women in the region”, Captain Khider said.

“Now we are defending ourselves from the evil; we are defending all the minorities in the region,” she said. “We will do whatever is asked of us.”

Lee Lynch’s Amazon Trail: Cheeseburger Pie

Central Oregon Coast NOW member Lee Lynch on the effects on all of us of generations growing of with war and the fear of war.

By Lee Lynch The threat of atomic war overshadowed my generation. On May 8, 1945, Winston Churchill announced VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe. On September 2, 1945, after horrendous destr…

Source: Lee Lynch’s Amazon Trail: Cheeseburger Pie

When Women Come Marching Home

When Women Come Marching Home is a portrait of the courage of several women veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian lives. Having experienced horrific traumas, the women are challenged with both physical and mental injuries, and difficulties in receiving benefits and care.

Reposted from:

Op-ed: Why Syria Matters for LGBT People

Syrian refugees in Istanbul.

If you still don’t know or care about what’s going on in Syria, here’s why you should.      

BY Victoria A. Brownworth

      September 13 2013 4:00 AM ET                                        



Syria has an undeniably terrible history on gay and women’s rights. Although Syria is not specifically a theocracy, Islamist law prevails. It is among the most repressive nations in the world with regard to women and gays. It is illegal to be gay or lesbian in Syria, so many gay men and lesbians are imprisoned for being queer. Laws prohibit organization of any kind of LGBT rights movement. Laws stipulate that homosexuality is a crime, even when between consenting adults. Syrian law also gives the Syrian Secret Service broad discretionary powers to detain and harass anyone deemed to be a threat to public order, morals, or national security. Since the current conflict began, such detentions have become a commonplace, and with them, rapes.

But the problems for LGBT people are not new. In 2005 the deputy minister of religious endowments publicly stated HIV and AIDS were divine punishment for people who engaged in fornication and homosexuality.

The Health Ministry stated that only 400 Syrians were infected with HIV. In addition, the ministry stated the government offers such persons “up-to-date medicines to combat this disease freely.” Yet nongovernmental organizations estimate there are significantly more people with HIV or AIDS in the nation than the Health Ministry is reporting.

And then there is the cataclysmic use of rape as a tool in the conflict, which has gotten next to no attention in the international media. Yet the reports from the United Nations, the International Rescue Committee, and Human Rights Watch have been succinct: rape is being used as a tool by both government forces and rebel forces to control and manipulate women and boys in the conflict. The U.N. refugee agency notes that many of the refugees are fleeing the stigma attached to rape in Syria. Human Rights Watch reports, “Syrian government forces have used sexual violence to torture women, men and boys detained during the current conflict. Witnesses and victims also told Human Rights Watch that soldiers and pro-government armed militias have sexually abused women and girls as young as 12 during home raids and military sweeps of residential areas.”

The Human Rights Watch report included testimony that women are being sent to various locations to be raped by commanding officers. Yet there was no mention of any of this in Obama’s speech. It was solely about the gassing.

The case for intervention in Syria has been made by human rights groups for two years, with women and gays at the focus. According to human rights organizations like the U.N. refugee agency, IRC, and HRW, extreme human rights violations have been going on in Syria for the past two years of the conflict. Why have we not intervened already? Why has there been no international outcry over those abuses which have been perpetrated most extensively against women, girls, and young boys?

If it’s this bad under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which purports to be freely elected, under extremist religious law implemented by the rebels, would gay men and lesbians be put to death, as is the case in neighboring Iran? Sharia law does call for such punishment for homosexuals.

It’s not an irrational concern. Honor killings are already common in Syria and have been implemented against LGBT people as well as women. The Syrian Women Observatory reports that about 300 women are killed each year by male relatives defending the family’s honor by murdering women thought to have had sex before marriage, been adulterous, or been lesbians.

History Repeats Itself?

Before September 11, 2001, I wrote about the Taliban in Afghanistan and its ban on girls going to school and women working. It was a humanitarian crisis: Widows, single women, and women with no male family members to support them were literally starving to death. Girls were at risk of being child brides with no education, as Afghanistan had the youngest marriage age in the world. As it is — and was then — Afghanistan has the highest illiteracy rate for women in the world.

I had pleaded for humanitarian intervention with the Taliban to save women’s lives. But women and girls were expendable; nothing was done.

Then came September 11, and we saw what the Taliban and its followers were capable of.

But had the U.S. and the West intervened on behalf of women and girls long before the attacks, would that catastrophic event have happened?

My question about Syria echoes that. Why Syria, and why now? “Chemical weapons! Gassing of children!” is the response from President Obama. But the conflict in Syria has been going on for two years, during which time 2 million refugees have fled the country and an estimated 100,000 people have been killed. The U.N. reports a pandemic of rape as a tool in the fighting, just as it has been used in Congo and Darfur.

For years now the conflicts in Darfur and Congo have been ongoing, and there have been 3 million rape victims between those countries. But there has been no talk of American intervention in either the Bush or Obama administrations. So why Syria? Are gassed children more deserving of intervention than children who have been shot in the chest or, in the case of Darfur and Congo, macheted to death? And what about the treatment of LGBT people in those places during those conflicts?

Syria And The Shadow of September 11

President Obama urged Americans to watch this video of the gassing attack in case we were unconvinced of the brutality of it.

It’s the president’s contention that the U.S. must act in response to Syria’s contravention of international law. What the president didn’t say in his speech, is that there is no international law that says the U.S. can attack another country that has not attacked us without that being a declaration of war. Nor did he say what we all know — that not one of our allies is poised to support such an attack and that our staunchest ally, the U.K., voted against a resolution supporting such intervention two weeks ago.

In a New York Times op-ed Thursday, Vladimir Putin described the Syrian conflict of the past two years as anything but democratic, warning that extremists among the rebels will force a major conflagration in the Middle East. This is no Arab Spring, but rather an effort by groups as far right as the Taliban to turn Syria into an even more repressive nation than it is currently.

This week it was confirmed that our own government has been arming those same rebels for weeks. Rebels who are, not just in Putin’s estimation, but by our own government’s, Islamist extremists, a percentage among them al Qaeda, as Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged last week. Reuters reported last week that Jacques Beres, cofounder of the NGO Doctors Without Borders, has worked as a doctor in embattled cities of Syria on multiple visits. He told Reuters that the opposition fighters are made up largely of foreign jihadists.

It would take a heartless monster to ignore the horror of the gassing in Syria. The video footage is gut-churning. No one could find that kind of action conscionable.

That said, it was our ally, the U.K., which sold the chemical weapons to Syria, as the Daily Record previously revealed. And we must remember the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, where we armed rebels in the 1980s against the Russians. Those rebels would later become the Taliban fighters we have fought for a decade in Afghanistan after the 2001 attack.

The U.S. does not belong in Syria any more than it did in Iraq. There can be no question that the gassing of civilians was a grievous and horrifying crime. But it is far from the only crime perpetrated against Syrian civilians throughout this conflict. We have not, for example, intervened to help stanch the epidemic of rape. Or even mention that it exists, despite the well-documented use of rape — often gang rape — as a tool by soldiers on both sides of the conflict, rapes which then force the victims into exile.

What’s Next For LGBT Syrians? So for LGBT people who are unsure where they stand on Syria, these are the questions for which you need answers: What will be done to protect gay and lesbian people in Syria if the Obama administration decides to attack? When will the administration speak to the epidemic of rape being perpetrated by both the Assad forces and the rebels? What can be done to find an equitable resolution to this ghastly situation that does not involve making it worse and thus making it harder for women and gays, as well as other civilians?
LGBT Syrians are at grave risk, as are Syrian women. What we must realize is that LGBT people have significant concerns with regard to Syria and, for LGBT Syrians’ sake and ours, we cannot afford to be silent.
VICTORIA A. BROWNWORTH is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, as well as the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has appeared in the The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer,  Nation, and Village Voice, among others. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired and is a contributing editor at Curve and Lambda Literary. Her most recent book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth, is the winner of the Moonbeam Award for Cultural/Historical Fiction 2012. Her novella Ordinary Mayhem won Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012. Follow her @VABVOX.

Congress, be careful what you wish for

Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:27 PM EDT

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with House Speaker Boehner earlier today.  White House photo.

The funny thing about a dog that chases a car? Sometimes it catches the car and has no idea what to do next.

Over the last several days, members of Congress have spoken out with a variety of opinions about U.S. policy towards Syria, but lawmakers were in broad agreement about one thing: they wanted President Obama to engage Congress on the use of military force. Few expected the White House to take the requests too seriously.

Why not? Because over the last several decades, presidents in both parties have increasingly consolidated authority over national security matters, tilting practically all power over the use of force towards the Oval Office and away from the legislative branch. Whereas the Constitution and the War Powers Act intended to serve as checks on presidential authority on military intervention abroad, there’s been a gradual (ahem) drift away from these institutional norms.

That is, until this afternoon, when President Obama stunned everyone, announcing his decision to seek “authorization” from a co-equal branch of government.

It’s one of those terrific examples of good politics and good policy. On the former, the American public clearly endorses the idea of Congress giving its approval before military strikes begin. On the latter, at the risk of putting too fine a point on this, Obama’s move away from unilateralism reflects how our constitutional, democratic system of government is supposed to work.

Arguably the most amazing response to the news came from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee:

“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria.”

This is one of those remarkable moments when a prominent member of Congress urges the White House to circumvent Congress, even after many of his colleagues spent the week making the exact opposite argument.

The next question, of course, is simple: now that Obama is putting Congress on the spot, what’s likely to happen next? Now that the dog has caught the car it was chasing, what exactly does it intend to do?

Lawmakers, in theory, could cut short their month-long break, return to work, and consider their constitutional obligations immediately. That almost certainly won’t happen, at least not the lower chamber — as my colleague Will Femia reported earlier, House Republican leaders have said they’re prepared to “consider a measure the week of September 9th.” There are reports Senate Democratic leaders may act sooner, but no formal announcement has been made.

The dirty little secret is that much of Congress was content to have no say in this matter. When a letter circulated demanding the president seek lawmakers’ authorization, most of the House and Senate didn’t sign it — some were willing to let Obama do whatever he chose to do, some didn’t want the burden of responsibility. Members spent the week complaining about the president not taking Congress’ role seriously enough, confident that their rhetoric was just talk.

It spoke to a larger problem: for far too many lawmakers, it’s so much easier to criticize than govern. In recent years, members of Congress have too often decided they’re little more than powerful pundits, shouting from the sidelines rather than getting in the game.

It’s one of the angles to today’s news that’s so fascinating — Obama isn’t just challenging Congress to play a constructive role in a national security matter, the president is also telling lawmakers to act like adults for a change. They’re federal lawmakers in the planet’s most powerful government, and maybe now would be a good time to act like grown-ups who are mindful of their duties.

In his first inaugural address, Obama said, “[I]n the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.” For the last four-and-a-half years, much of Congress ignored this call. Today, members received a striking reminder.

Yes, Congress is a hapless embarrassment. It can’t pass a budget; it can’t pass a farm bill; and it can barely manage to keep the government’s lights on. But institutional responsibilities don’t fade away just because radicalized GOP lawmakers are struggling through a post-policy phase.

There is a real possibility that Congress will simply decline to give the president the authorization he seeks. I suspect Obama will get the votes he needs, but note that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two senators who never saw a country they weren’t tempted to bomb, issued a statement this afternoon that read:

“We believe President Obama is correct that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons requires a military response by the United States and our friends and allies. Since the President is now seeking Congressional support for this action, the Congress must act as soon as possible.

“However, we cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the President’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict, which is a growing threat to our national security interests. Anything short of this would be an inadequate response to the crimes against humanity that Assad and his forces are committing. And it would send the wrong signal to America’s friends and allies, the Syrian opposition, the Assad regime, Iran, and the world — all of whom are watching closely what actions America will take.”

In other words, McCain and Graham realize Obama is eyeing narrow, limited military intervention, and they’re outraged — they want a broader conflict with a massive U.S. role. They may well vote against a measure on Syria because it doesn’t go far enough in their eyes.

And that’s certainly their right. Others will oppose strikes for progressive reasons. Others still endorse the White House strategy.

The point is, the people’s elected representatives will have a debate, which is exactly what it should do. It won’t be pretty, but it’s how the United States is supposed to operate. Congress has clear responsibilities — whether lawmakers want them or not — and it’s time they exercise them.