Shame Dero

‘Nobody Helps Us,’ Says Yazidi Mother Who Lost Five Sons to ISIS


By Sarkawt Mohammed

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Rudaw) — Shame Dero lost five of her ten children to the Islamic State group (ISIS). Every year, on August 3, in commemoration of the genocide anniversary, she prepares food for the children of Chamishko camp in Duhok where she lives, remembering the hunger she and other Yazidis felt as they fled the terror group’s attack on Shingal.

“We are doing this for the sake of God and for the souls of those whose flesh was eaten in the desert. Trust me, I consider them my own children. All of our children were loved ones. There were students, doctors, teachers, academicians, and soldiers among them. They were all starving. They had no food. I swear to God, none of them has been buried. None of the injured was taken to the hospital… When I prepare the food, I prepare it as if my children are alive and I am feeding them. With this food donation, I ease my sorrows.” Dero said in an interview with Rudaw’s Jaffar Mubashirnya on Tuesday, August 3.

On August 3, 2014, ISIS militants took over the town of Shingal, committing genocide against the Yazidi minority. Thousands fled their homes, seeking shelter on Mount Sinjar, then later in camps in the Kurdistan Region or abroad. Militants systematically killed men and older women, and enslaved younger women and children. In the first days of the genocide, 1,293 people were killed and 6,417 people were abducted. Today, 2,760 people are still missing, according to statistics from the NGO Joint Help for Kurdistan.

“In front of our daughters-in-law, they beheaded our grandchildren. Our children’s flesh is cut into pieces. Isn’t that a crime?” asked Dero.

“Thirty-three relatives of my family were victimized and enslaved by ISIS. Thirteen of them were killed. One of my sons survived after being injured. He was shot twice in the leg and needs special care,” said Dero.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Their bodies are still lying where they fell, and Dero is worried they have been burned after a series of fires reported at some mass grave sites. “We also ask to collect the bones of our loved ones in Tal Ozer that have become ashes as they have been burned. Let everyone know I have been looking for their bones for eight years,” she said.

Only 18 of her family members survived. Five of her sons are dead. One of her granddaughters, Jaylan, killed herself, slitting her wrists, rather than be gang raped by ISIS militants.

For seven years Dero has lived in a camp, where she says they are in constant fear of fire, like the one that tore through Sharya camp in June, turning some 400 tents to ash.

“We live in a dire situation under the tents. We’re not sure when we will be engulfed in flames,” she said, appealing for assistance to build a permanent home.

Due to the dire situation in the camp, Dero refuses to return home, afraid for her safety in a region where scores of militias are active and the government has failed to implement an agreement to restore safety and rebuild Shingal. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi this week acknowledged that not enough has been done for the Yazidis.

“How can we return home? There is no place we can go,” said Dero. “We have no life left in this world, believe me. I don’t know where to go.”

Seven of her children’s houses have been destroyed. “From a needle to the well pumps and doors, nothing is left in the houses. They were set ablaze, but the concrete walls did not catch fire. All that’s left is the empty building,” she said.

ISIS was territorially defeated in Iraq in 2017 and two years later in Syria. When the last bastion of the group fell in 2019, thousands of the group’s fighters, family members, and supporters were detained in prisons and camps in northeast Syria. It is believed that many of the missing Yazidis are among the ISIS families in al-Hol camp.

Dero says she knows she has family there. “We have been searching for our missing people. We know they’re in al-Hol camp in Syria. We know that one of my daughters-in-law and her son are in al-Hol camp,” she said.

Al-Hol camp houses nearly 60,000 people affiliated with ISIS and Syrian Kurdish forces struggle to secure the sprawling site, which has been dubbed a breeding ground for terrorism.

Dero said she is ready to dress in a black niqab like the women of ISIS and search al-Hol for her family members. “Nobody helps us. We are a flock of sheep without a shepherd. We don’t have a leader. If we had one, two jets would have protected us on that day. Nothing would have happened to the Yazidis. We would have not lost even two of our children,” she said.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: