Nadia Murad-Pesse, 20, was born and raised in the Kurdish region of Syria by her mother Shama and father Murad. Her home-town of Kocho, which once boasted a population of 1,700, lies near the Sinjar Mountains not far from the border between Iraq and Syria.
Some households in the village, including hers, had a TV and Nadia's favourite broadcasts were music shows and horror movies, as long as the good guys won in the end. She even saw a World Cup soccer match, Germany versus Brazil, but ultimately felt sorry for the Brazilians and couldn't understand why her brothers made fun of the losing team.
Nadia has shoulder-length, dark brown hair with a touch of henna. Her shoulders are narrow, her voice is hoarse. She has scars on her forearm. She wrings her hands as she speaks and the words sometimes come haltingly, then pour out almost as a scream. It has been one and a half months since she escaped, but she still wakes up in tears at night, according to the relatives who have taken her in. Their home is located not far from the Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk, on the safe side of the front.
During the interview, in which Nadia talks about her nine-day ordeal, she is repeatedly shaken by crying fits, but she no longer wishes to remain silent. She is determined to tell her story, a detailed eyewitness account of how she was held hostage.
This past summer, Kurdish fighters in the border region of northern Syria and northern Iraq retreated before the rapid advance of IS troops. The fighters of the "caliphate," superbly armed and well-organized, seized control of large areas. More than 1.8 million people have fled the region, according to a United Nations report. From January to the end of September 17,386 civilians were wounded and 9,347 killed. In addition, Kurdish military officials estimate that thousands of young women were abducted.
Amid all this turmoil, Nadia's town was suddenly left unprotected.
On the night she snuck out of the house of her captors, Nadia found a protrusion along the garden wall and managed to clamber to the top. She was lucky in other ways, too: there was no barbed wire and no embedded shards of glass. It was pitch black on the other side of the wall. Far in the distance, she recalls, she could make out the dim, yellowish lights of a city. She was afraid to jump. But she did so anyway.
Nadia landed safely and started running, quietly, but as quickly as she could. "Don't even think of running away!" the men had warned her. They claimed she would be recaptured within an hour, saying they had announced a reward for $5,000 (€3,950) for fugitives. The punishment for attempted escape, the men added, was death.
Nadia had a happy childhood growing up in her small town. Her father died 11 years ago, but he left the family a spacious rambler, with four large bedrooms, in which the children grew up: Nadia, her 12 brothers and two sisters. Nine of her brothers, both her sisters, and her mother are listed as missing. Nadia shows a picture of her mother on her mobile.
Nadia liked school and she was a model student, as she somewhat bashfully admits, finishing among the top two of her graduating class. History was her favourite subject. She dreamed of going to college someday, perhaps even becoming a teacher and buying an apartment of her own, with shelves filled with books.
Her family was not rich, but they were able to make ends meet. They had around 50 sheep, two dozen chickens and a few goats. Nadia's older brothers worked as day labourers while her mother sold milk, yoghurt, eggs and cheese. Sometimes even Muslims from the neighbouring towns came to make purchases. They got along fine with the Christians, but her mother always warned her about the Muslims: "Never trust them!"
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