Professor Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, German psychologist who has helped to repair the shattered and broken lives of countless Yezidi women who have suffered at the hands of ISIS, addresses the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.
On ISIS’ aims:
“They want to induce political chaos and destroy our achievement of freedom, democracy, philosophy, morality and ethics, our the way of life and how we want to live.”
“In this terror group perceptions, all disbelievers such as Yazidis, Christians, Jews, Yarasan, Shabazz, Mandeans and all another minority religions are evil, malicious, immoral and inhuman.”
On the crimes of ISIS:
“Activists kill themselves on an unprecedent scale, maltreat, rape and sell young girls, behead people in front of rolling cameras and post the films online. This terror summons our human understanding of barbarity and suffering.”
A call to action:
“Death and the desire for safety, closeness and love go hand in hand. Therefore, we have to help the people who had to endure this suffering. Resistance against war and genocide, as well as accommodating traumatized refugees, are among the core values of whole human dignity and should advocate together in the Western world.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured of being selected for this prestigious award on behalf of all women victims of IS. Also I thank you to give me the opportunity to talk today to you.
After the terrorist attack by IS and its brutal and inhumane activities in Syria and Iraq, the German state of Baden-Württemberg has set up a program with the aim to bring 1,000 women and children who had been in the hands of IS to Germany for medical treatment. As a medical therapeutic head of this program, I talked, examined and interviewed more than 1,400 women and girls. Many of them told me stories that were hard to believe. Whenever I thought that I couldn’t get any worse, another girl would approach me and tell me about experiences that were even more lethal. As a scientist, I can classify crimes along various political, sociological and psychological theories, but I tried to understand simply as a person, as a father who was facing this woman and saw them cry, their body convulse, full of shame and pain, such as 18 -year-old Linda, who looked into my eyes hoping that I could explain to her why she had been sold eight times, raped and tortured hundreds of times for more than ten months. I could not give her any answer to the question of why. Why is the human souls are still so grim in the 21st century, so dark and so evil?
Ladies and gentlemen, in Europe, even in Europe, we hoped after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that such fearful actions would not occur again. But exactly this scenario of terror, of fear and horror was returned to Paris later the same year. Obviously, the terrorist war is not limited in Iraq and Syria, more, where hundreds of thousands of people are persecuted, taken hostage, tortured and raped. The terrorists have managed to spark fear in the world. With this perfidious strategy they want all of us to be afraid. They want to induce political chaos and destroy our achievement of freedom, democracy, philosophy, morality and ethics, our the way of life and how we want to live.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me also say, that Western world and the original actors in Near and Middle East have underestimated IS, due to the political, economic interests. Many intelligence services made use of IS, allowed it to became the gruelling Islamic State that it is today, and still is going ahead and lot of countries support the IS or intelligence services.
However, the IS is different from Islamist terrorist organizations as we know them. It persuades as the totalitarian, fascistic organization like a Nazi regime in Germany some years ago. Utility of Islamic symbols and procedures of unknown destructiveness. It distributes its form of terrorism across the whole world and doesn’t take any pity of people who don’t submit to them. The number of potential perpetrators and supporters is huge. Terror has many religions and ideological faces. It utilizes modern media and creates transnational networks – civilian causalities are taken into account, even intended. The terror of IS aims at spreading fear and horror. Activists kill themselves on an unprecedent scale, maltreat, rape and sell young girls, behead people in front of rolling cameras and post the films online. This terror summons our human understanding of barbarity and suffering. It affects thousands of innocent people.
IS had started the destruction early, as three years ago in Iraq and Syria. Not only to kill and slave people; they also destroy cultural heritage sites, monuments, statues, and a part of our memory and therefore of our identity. Thus, they also want to kill our past, so that mankind losses its collective identity. I wonder how full of hatred against our values they have to be even destroy rocks with such kind of fanatism.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to be realistic. I also have to admit the test of men, women and children is nothing new in the course of wars and violent conflict in the history of mankind. The major thing is that violence is tolerated and applied in a society as the means and it changes its nature and character, from the future of an individual to the future of a community as well. Regarded historically and presently, violence has a long-lasting effect on how our society develops, how it handles its conflict and how its children and grandchildren are likely to act. If physically violence prevails in long term – and this is the case in Near and Middle East – then there is a such long lasting influences on society that a culture of violence emerges.
The test left its traces in a nationalist ideology of current countries in the region, as well as in the religion – a patriarchal perspective in conjuncture with the exertion of violence in all areas of life. This leaves a stamp of the action of individuals and make them distrustful towards any member of the society. Therefore, each group might have been victims, but another reality is that we have also perpetrators. Therefore, it is not of surprise that Islamist terrorism enjoys some degree of sympathy and support in the Muslim populism, since there are no other actors to trust either. Besides, this is an opportunity to reinforce the distrust and instability with pure force.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to ask us, of course, why is this negotiation of humanity? Violence that is designed to kill people requires an explanation about the ones who exert it, as well as about the victims. Since life is seen as being something sacred and this saintliness is violated by the exertion of physical violence. The offenders need a principle in order to justify their immoral and inhuman actions. The IS terrorists legitimise their deeds with Islamic religion and justify it with, among other things, their own humiliation by their own or imperialistic countries.
I will give you an example which – Sohrab Ahmari wrote about this case and works with Jonah, thank you very much – it is a very important case and all the world should know about this issue.
Zus, a 26 years old woman who I examined in the Northern Iraq, told me that she had three children. She said, her two-years-old daughter had been killed by IS and started to cry. Her six years old son was sitting behind his mother, with his hands and feet trembling, quiet apart from that. Suddenly, her five-year-old daughter came up to me with a smartphone, showing me the lovely looking two-years-old girl, her sister Luzin. Like nearly all other women I have treated, her mother told me about the IS attack, the abduction and enslavement, everything.
When I asked her why the daughter has been killed, she told me that she had to read the Quran every day, but since her mother tongue was Kurdish and her Arabic wasn’t good, she made mistakes while reading them and couldn’t recite everything.
Thus in order to punish the mother of the two-years-old Luzin, put into a tin box in the blazing heat. The mother was not allowed to retrieve Luzin from the box for seven days, otherwise the IS terrorist threatened he would kill the other two children. In the evening, Luzin was allowed to eat something, but would immediately throw it up. After seven days, this IS terrorists retrieved Luzin from the box and immersed her in ice cold water, where after one of her eyes dropped out. Two hours later, the same terrorists returned and beat up Luzin’s back several times until her backbone broke. Two days later, Luzin died. When the terrorist had seen the little body of Luzin, he lifted up into the air and dropped onto the floor and he said: “this is how all these disbelievers have to die”.
This IS terrorist refers to the explanation pattern well known, that is: “these disbelievers have to convert or to be killed”. In this terror group perceptions, all disbelievers such as Yazidis, Christians, Jews, Yarasan, Shabazz, Mandeans and all another minority religions are evil, malicious, immoral and inhuman.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the simplest, most effective, and most all comprehensible way to explain why humans were still to be killed. This culprit obviously lost any kind of individuality, they became non-person and kill themselves and other for an imaginary higher goal of unbelievable, non-discussable and infallible belief. Suicide and murder of human became like a pathological obsession and mania. The evilness of one’s own action is twisted into the dysfunctional way to be good. On another, more delusional mental level, they even believe that by killing the victims they release them from the misery of disbelief. The culprit who couldn’t be killed himself is infected with a belief that thus became amatory, that he is immortal. In the end, these terrorists have left behind any reality that’s known to us. To kill the disbelievers, in a suicide attack is a goal that makes any dialogue with the approach of these people impossible, since they see this as liberation.
Feeling such an empathy with others, learning and so on are suppressed to an extent that they can kill children or beheaded and buried hundreds people alive. As we can see with IS terrorism in Iraq and Syria, such apocalyptic notion results in a dehumanisation of human. With this conceptual framework the others became non-human and have to be killed. If consistently and systematically applied, this ideology also has an effect on children, who have been captured and trained as child soldiers. On 26 January, when I was in Iraqi Kurdistan, we were able to talk on phone to some Yazidi children, who didn’t want to go home and like IS members said that the Yazidis were disbelievers, and had to die. They reported to me that 270 Yazidi children to be among them and that all of them would fight for a “true face”. The children are drilled and exploited in a similar ways as child soldiers in Africa. They are educated to became inhumane and finally supposed to take action against their own families. In the camps, they are trained to beat, crucify or bury other children alive if they don’t comply with IS rules. The ones who are not sent to combat serve as food men for the emirs, as guards or as spies. Some children that have been released changed significantly. They defend Islam and IS, although they may be Yazidis. They threaten to decapitate their own families unless they join IS. The children are supposed to carry this pathological ideology of IS into their own society and hollow it from within.
Ladies and gentlemen, with this project, I also got to know many strong girls and women. They have gone through the hell, experienced the worst of human beings that can experience. Nevertheless, they fight for survival, confronting these horrifying memories even every single day. They fight for hope. Even so, the question of why this happened to them remains unanswered. They want their future back, and they want to regain faith in humankind.
Death and the desire for safety, closeness and love go hand in hand. Therefore, we have to help the people who had to endure this suffering. Resistance against war and genocide, as well as accommodating traumatized refugees, are among the core values of whole human dignity and should advocate together in the Western world.
I would have liked to see as helping even more people who had to experience these atrocities. Unfortunately, only 1,100 people, women and girls, could be brought to Germany for medical treatment. However, every life is a life that has to be rescued. I haven’t lost hope for peace in the Near East and I hope, through many projects, we can help. But at last, I want to remind again, as Rwanda was a disgrace for the humankind and Bosnia was a disgrace for the humankind. the Yazidis genocide and minority is the same. And how often must this recur? How often?