Sana’s Story – 11 year old Survivor of 3 years of Isis Captivity

In mid-July, our Greater Change Community Center's Deputy Director, Bayan, met 11-year-old Sana. She bravely shared her story and asked that it be shared with others. We have changed her name and edited her story only for grammar and for clarity in brackets. Please note that this story contains descriptions of the harsh realities of war.

My name is Sana and I am 11 years old. This is my story [starting] 3 years ago. I am an 8 years old little girl. I live in a city called Sinjar with my family.  I go to school and I have a normal life. One day in 2014, I heard about Isis and that they entered Iraq specifically (Mosul). A few weeks later in August 2014, Isis entered Sinjar where I lived. Everybody from Sinjar started to run away towards Sinjar mountain.

I was with my family and my grandmother running away as everybody else. When we got close to the mountain, my grandmother feels sick because she has diabetes and she couldn't run anymore, she had to stop. At that moment, we didn't know what Isis will do to us if they captured us and we thought that we will get help soon. My grandmother went back to Sinjar to her daughter’s house and I had to go back with her to take care of her because she is sick. Me and my grandmother went back to the house to Sinjar and we hid. A few hours later, the city was full of Isis members we had to hid for 1 day.  Then my father called and he said we [must] start running towards the mountain again because Isis are killing people and he will be waiting for us.

We started to go towards the mountains again on our way running Isis captured us and we never made it to the mountain.  Isis took us back to Sinjar. I was so scared. That was the first time I see animals with the shape of humans. They were so ugly and scary they were killing people on the roads and taking the girls and the children.

There was so many of them. I held my grandmother’s hand all the time.  They took us to a place called Tlafar and they put us in a school. There was so many Yazidi people in that school and for a moment I thought that they captured every single Yazidi person and put them in that school. We stayed there [for] one month with a very small amount of food and water. Isis treated us in a very bad way, yelling at people and telling us that they will kill us and they will sell the girls.

After that, they moved us to another place called Bahdosh close to Mosul. They put us in jail. The jail was so dirty and so big. There was big rooms Isis used to store Dettol cleaner. There were so many big red water tanks. Those tanks were full of garbage and dead mice and insects and Isis used them for our water. They were giving us food one time a day. One tomato, one cucumber, one small bread for both me and my grandmother. They were giving us water to drink once every 3 days so we had to save that water for 3 days. We stayed in this jail for two months and then they took us to so many places I don't remember. After a few months, they brought us back to the same jail.

Isis kept reminding us how bad they can be and how many people they killed and how many men they beheaded. One day in the jail, they wrote our names and they said that they will send us home a few days later. They sent a car and they said you can go home. I couldn’t believe it I was so happy. I was holding my grandmother’s hand, but no that was not the end. When I was about to get in the car, somebody took me by the hand and took me back to the hell. I cried and screamed, “Grandmother, don’t leave me alone!” I wanted to die at that moment.

The car left without me and my journey without my grandmother started. They put me with 10 other people in a small house. They were taking the men every day to the mosque to do Muslim prayer and read their book and they were taking the girls to sell them or to marry them and to use them as slaves.

We stayed there for two months, and one morning they took all the men and never brought them back and they took all the girls (I don’t know where) and they took me with the other children and put us in a school. When first I entered that school, I saw so many clothes for other people left behind. The place was so dirty and smells bad. There was an old lady they said that she will take care of us. We were around 200 children. That was after 11 months of me being kidnapped and till now, I never had a shower or changed my clothes. 

The first thing that old lady did was shave all the children's hair.  Every day she was teaching us how to read the Quran and how to do Muslim prayer. She was yelling at children. And treating us in a very bad way. One day an old man came and he looked at me he wanted to take me and marry me but, thanks God, I was too young for him he did not want me. A few days later, some Isis member they came and they took all the children. They left me with other 11 children. (Maybe because I was too young for them to marry)

Two days later, an Isis member came and he bought me. I thought that he will marry me.  He took me to his mother's house and they told me that I am their servant starting from today. I was only nine and a half years old. I was doing everything in the house. I was serving around six family members, two of them were Isis members, they used to go every morning to kill people. Those two family members used to go every morning to kill people and to fight the Yazidi people. They came back every night and I knew that they are killing my people and I still had to serve them. I served that family for almost 2 years. There was a woman in that family, she was nice to me and she saved me. Her husband was an Isis member but she couldn't do anything about it. One day her husband and his brother went to fight and never came back. A few days later we heard about the Iraqi army and other armies entered Mosul to fight Isis and during that time we run away from Mosul. And thank God we made it to the refugee [camp] and I got back to my family.