Five Yazidi women confirmed as crime victims in the case against ISIL member Umm Sayyaf
October 22, 2021 – Alexandria, Virginia
On October 15, 2021, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia heard a motion filed by a group of five Yazidi women in the case against ISIL member Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar (also known as “Umm Sayyaf”). The Yazidi women are all victims of horrific crimes perpetrated by Umm Sayyaf and believe that she should be prosecuted in the United States for her role in the genocide of the Yazidis.
The women survived egregious crimes committed by Umm Sayyaf and her husband, Abu Sayyaf, an ISIL senior leader, as part of ISIL’s campaign to eradicate the Yazidi people. During ISIL’s massacre of the Yazidis in the Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014, four of the women—all of whom were teenagers at the time—were kidnapped and sold as slaves, or sabaya, a central tactic in ISIL’s genocidal campaign. The fifth woman’s 15-year-old daughter, Inas, was also held at the Sayyaf house.
The Sayyafs enslaved the Yazidi girls at their home in Al-Shaddadi, Syria. While enslaved, they, along with other Yazidis and a captured American aid worker, Kayla Mueller, were subjected to torture, rape, beatings, and starvation. Umm Sayyaf routinely prepared and led the women and girls to be raped by ISIL militants, including by Umm Sayyaf’s husband and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader and self-proclaimed caliph of ISIL. Kayla was reportedly killed, and Inas was never seen again.
Following her capture by U.S. troops in 2015, the U.S. Government filed a criminal complaint against Umm Sayyaf solely for knowingly conspiring to provide material support to ISIL. But the case has been dormant since that time. Instead, prior to filing its criminal complaint, the U.S. Government transferred Umm Sayyaf from U.S. custody to Kurdish Regional Government (“KRG”) custody.
For years, despite their clear status as crime victims of Umm Sayyaf, the U.S. Government refused to recognize these women as crime victims under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (“CVRA”) and thus denied them their statutory rights. Moreover, for years, the U.S. Government did not turn over key information to the Yazidi women regarding the proceedings against Umm Sayyaf in the KRG despite repeated requests.
It was not until the victims filed their April 2021 motion requesting recognition as crime victims under the CVRA and relevant information about Umm Sayyaf and the proceedings against her that the U.S. Government finally conceded that these women are crime victims under the CVRA. In September 2021, the U.S. Government finally furnished the women with limited, albeit insufficient, information about the KRG criminal proceedings. At the October hearing, the Court recognized that the Yazidi women were entitled to any supplemental information other victims of Umm Sayyaf’s crimes received, and ordered the Government to turn over any such information to the Yazidis.
“The results of these proceedings are important steps in an ongoing process to ensure that our clients receive justice for the egregious crimes committed against them by Umm Sayyaf,” says Zainab Ahmad, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “We look forward to continuing our pursuit of justice for our clients and to ensuring that the rights conferred upon them by U.S. law are recognized and protected.”
For the Arabic translation of this press release, click here.
For further inquiries, please contact Zainab Ahmad, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP at firstname.lastname@example.org.