She could be your daughter: 15 years old, long hair down to her waist, wearing jeans and sneakers, video chatting with her best friend.
Dilveen and Dalal haven’t seen each other in five years and are excitedly planning for their upcoming reunion.
It’s such a typical teenage scene that you forget, for a moment, the horrors they have survived. Two best friends, separated by thousands of kilometres; Dilveen lives in Canada and Dalal in Northern Iraq, but united in their agony. Both survived a genocide.
It was August 4, 2014, in a systematic wave of terror, the Islamic State group carried out a well-orchestrated campaign to exterminate the Yazidis, a religious minority that populates Northern Iraq. Jihadi fighters swept through village after village slaughtering Yazidis. In just a matter of days, 10,000 Yazidis were killed.
The young women and girls were mostly spared, but for a fate almost worse than death. Seven thousand were rounded up to be sold as sex slaves amongst the ISIS militants. Dilveen, who was 10 at the time and Dalal, 13, were no exception.
A Canadian human rights organization, One Free World International, has spent the last five years rescuing Yazidis from ISIS slavery and helping those who have been granted asylum adjust to life in Canada.
“The girls [were] divided into three categories: very beautiful, medium beauty and not much beauty. Virgin and unvirgin. The price of the Yazidi girls was from two to four thousand American dollars,” Rev. Majed el Shafie said while describing the ISIS slave markets.
“[They] were forced to put make up on, wear sexy clothes and walk in front of ISIS fighters like a fashion show.”
In that market, Dilveen and Dalal clung together and made a promise never to leave each other.
“I was so scared because my mom [was] not with me or my dad. Just me and Dalal and a lot of Yazidi girls,” said Dilveen. “I told them, I cannot leave Dalal. Kill me, but I cannot leave Dalal. They told me, ‘If you don’t leave, we will kill you both.’”
Dalal was sold to one ISIS fighter and Dilveen was sold to a man old enough to be her grandfather. What they endured is a nightmare within a nightmare.
Dilveen managed to escape after three months and came with her family to Canada in 2016. Dalal was enslaved for four excruciating years.
In August 2019, Dilveen returned to Iraq for an emotional homecoming on the five-year anniversary of the ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people.
At a remote camp for internally displaced people, Dilveen and Dalal were at last reunited.
After a long tearful embrace, she told W5, “She’s my best friend. She looks like my sister. I love her so much. We want to be together always.”