ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Yezidi woman finally saw justice this week when the man who sexually abused her and held her captive was sentenced to death by a Baghdad court on Monday.
The trial against Islamic State (ISIS) supporter Mohammed Rashid Sahab, who abused and enslaved 20-year-old Ashwaq Haji Hamid for two-and-a-half-months in 2014, is reportedly the first case in which a Yezidi survivor has played a prominent role in court proceedings against their abuser.
“The most important thing to me is that my dream came true and I was watching the one who raped me sentenced to death,” Hamid was quoted in the New York Times on Monday.
Sahab, originally from Anbar province, captured Hamid as the Yezidi homeland of Shingal was overrun by ISIS in August 2014.
Hamid managed to escape captivity and traveled to Germany, where Sahab tracked her down years later. The shocking encounter attracted worldwide media attention.
Sahab, also known as Abu Hamam, was eventually captured by Iraqi police and taken to Baghdad to stand trial.
He was sentenced to death by hanging in accordance with article 4 of Iraq’s 2005 Anti-terrorism law no.13, which grants the death penalty for members of terrorist organizations.
A statement from Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council explicitly mentions the rape committed against Hamid – a significant departure from previous cases against ISIS members, which tend to focus exclusively on suspects’ ties to the terrorist organization rather than specific atrocities.
In a video published on Facebook, author and activist Amy L Beam, who was with Hamid in the courthouse, described the case and the hearing, which followed more than a year-and-a-half of investigations.
Beam, who met the Yezidi survivor two years ago, praised the court proceedings and the Iraqi justice system, which has recently come under fire for its handling of ISIS suspects.
“I couldn’t have been more impressed with the Iraqi justice system as I saw it today. There have been other cases that were unjust, but this investigation was very thorough,” she told Rudaw English via telephone.
“We don’t need Brussels and the [International Criminal Court] ICC to have justice,” she added, acknowledging that many survivors are afraid to come forward fearing of retribution against family members.
Hamid, from the town of Khanasor in Shingal, managed to escape her captor with other Yezidis after slipping sleeping pills into food prepared for their captors, the court heard.
She was initially sent to Germany under a survivors’ rehabilitation program. However, she returned to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq two years ago after Sahab tracked her down in Germany.
Hamid travelled to Baghdad six times to provide evidence against the accused, Beam said. It took 11 months for Iraqi intelligence police to arrest her captor.
Hamid confronted her captor in a tearful televised encounter aired late last year, which drew concerns over media coverage of the Yezidi plight.
She also provided evidence for more than an hour in the courtroom on Monday, reliving her traumatic experience.
“She is the bravest woman I know,” Beam said.