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Committed to Struggle

For the past ten years, we have lived and worked alongside girls and women who were taken into the captivity of ISIS, raped, tortured, sold on the slave markets of Iraq and Syria, time after time. They were made up, their hair was done. Beautiful garments were purchased for them. Their market price was determined by their age and their beauty. They were sold. Abused. Put on the market to the highest bidder. Repeat. Ad Infinitum.

Upon their release, the girls knew that they were in “captivity in ISIS”. They knew that they were victims of genocide and crimes against humanity but they didn’t know that they were victims of human trafficking. Simply because the term and concept was unknown. We had to teach them.


Hamda, Rescued Student

“This was a very important subject for me. I had never heard the term “human trafficking”. That is what was done to us.”

- Hamda


“Human Trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a crime against humanity.”  

Pope Francis. 


This past month of January was Human Trafficking Awareness month. Outside of our work in the Hope Centre, our Kids4Hope programme in Duhok city is working with vulnerable children and orphans whose parents were involved in this and other related crimes and are now incarcerated. We decided that it was time to revisit this subject which is part of the warp and weft of our daily life, for the sake of those who are now entering their teens and need education. For the sake of those who simply do not know. Those who have not heard.

Also for those of our students, still in the dire circumstances of poverty, loneliness, rejection by the community, who could be and indeed are, easy prey. When talking with the Governor of the local prison we heard of Yezidi and Christian girls who were incarcerated for their safety. The Yezidi girl was living in a remote camp, she had been rescued from ISIS but all her family had perished. The sole survivor of atrocities had yet again become a victim. Our hearts hurt that this and other precious ones had fallen into evil hands.

Our nearby city whilst being a magnet for academia, and intellectual development and prowess, holds a dark side. It would appear to be a laid back city where one can lose one's Iphone, return 24 hours later to find it there untouched, a city where nothing ever happens. In that assumption lies the danger.

The darker unknown side is different. Being close to the borders of Syria and Turkey and with direct lines of transport southwards into Iran, it has become a hub for both human trafficking of women and children, of organ trafficking and weapons smuggling. As told to us in the prison, it affects local Kurds, Arabs from Mosul, Christians and Yezidis.

To help with bringing awareness we invited Dr Adham from the Faculty of Education & Counselling, at the University of Duhok to open up this very broad subject of trafficking, from the local street beggars, the women with babies at every junction, to the stealing of organs in hospitals.


Vagar, Equine Trainer and Daf Teacher

“If we look at trafficking in the Kurdish region, and especially in Duhok, it is common. I think it is very important that we in Springs of Hope Foundation are examining and exposing the subject now. Our society is one that closes its eyes until a disaster happens. Then we wake up and begin to debate and hold workshops. But then it will be too late, the disaster will have happened.


This was excellent for us, both staff and students. I believe that we should hold another such workshop for a wider audience of family members and parents. I think that so much depends upon the education received within the family circle and the strength of the family, the involvement of the family in the child’s life.


I see families who give their child a mobile phone, but no boundaries are set, no checks are ever made on the phone, no questions asked, no guidance given. That is the standard and norm in our society.


The family can be an amazing family with the finest morals, but due to lack of awareness the child can be trapped by predators. Children also feel “policed" if parents ask to check their phone but this is for their own good, their protection. It is way too easy to connect with the wrong people, especially when we have thousands unemployed due to the current economic crisis and ongoing displacement.  Parents can not afford to ignore their children.


Children should be raised with awareness and boundaries, with supervision and the ability to speak freely with their parents so that they do not fall into these traps. Parents should be alert and aware, not complacent and ignorant.


As Kurds we have many beautiful things in our society, but this places a stain upon us all. It is a vital subject which should be taught again and again. Evil must be exposed. Family education and responsibility must be high.” 


- Vagar


Saba, Displaced Student

“I live in a tent and have never been exposed to this subject. It was very important for me to learn these things. My generation does not know. My generation lives on social media, we make new friends every day. We don’t check and we trust easily. This has to change. I hope that I don't get into such trouble.”


- Saba


“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again you did not know.”  

William Wilberforce. Abolitionist. 


Radwan, Violin Teacher

“This workshop shocked me. I will not be the same again. The city is full of young young kids begging, and women asking for money or trying to sell one flower by a traffic light. My heart always hurts for them and I have given them something. I did not know that behind a child beggar is a ring of crime manipulating and controlling these poor children. It’s sad to say but I will not give them again.


I was also shocked to hear that hospitals are partners in crime. That they remove body organs whilst a patient is under the influence of anesthesia. That is terrifying.


I will be sure to share this with my friends and to keep a close eye on my students."


- Radwan


Ayhan, Project Coordinator

“Human Trafficking constitutes a severe breach of human rights. I often encounter children begging for money. They are predominantly visible on public streets, outside restaurants, and at the entrance to hospitals.

I distinctly recall an incident in a motel in Sulaymaniyah where a very young child was being compelled to undertake tasks that far exceeded his age appropriate abilities, both physically and mentally.

When assessing potential signs of human trafficking, the observation of physical signs of abuse coupled with submissive and fearful body language become significant red flags. When one notes their limited and repetitive speech, severe concerns about their well being are raised. When one notices a different dialect, the picture of trafficking is complete.

Whilst it remains uncertain whether there is an organised network behind these instances, the consistent presence of these indicators prompts reflection on whether these children are living under the influence of traffickers or if it represents an unfortunate aspect of their everyday lives.”

- Ayhan


Maha, Rescued Student

“I was trafficked although I did not realise it at the time. During the workshop I recalled what happened to me in 2014. Thanks to the presentation I now understand the dangers that exist and I will share with my friends."  

- Maha


“A trade founded in iniquity must be abolished.”   

William Wilberforce.


Barzan, Equine Trainer

"Nearly all the girls who come to Horses for Hope were trafficked. They have many problems and some are treated badly by their families despite the fact that they were rescued from ISIS.


We try to be there for them, to provide  a place of quietness and tranquility where they can rebalance and find peace. Often it is enough to be their friend, to encourage them to feed the ducks, to clean the tack, to talk about the beauty of the world. We chat about the horses, about saddles and bridles. We can not change the fact that they were taken into captivity, abused and sold repeatedly. We can show them the beauty that exists in the small things of life.


We can be there for them. We can gently check on their media contacts, to see what they post on their status. I look at FB not so much for myself but to check on my friends and family members.


On a personal level, I have sisters at home who were rescued from ISIS. They too were sold repeatedly and moved all over Syria with their captors. I now understand the process of trapping girls and the power of social media and shall speak to my sisters about this and watch them carefully."


- Barzan


“If you love someone who is ruining his life because of faulty thinking and you don't do anything about it because you are afraid of what others might think, it would seem that rather than being loving, you are being heartless.”   



Kajen, Computer Teacher

“Human Trafficking is a huge subject, it is a global issue, not just one related to ISIS or to our region. It is not something new, it has existed for hundreds of years but lately has become an international topic.

It hurts me that people are unaware of human trafficking, it hurts me that people are exploited due to ignorance. Many people in our society hide their faces from these subjects because they are painful. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone which is one of ignorance and denial.

I am concerned for the current and next generation of youth and children in Shariya. They are our future. I want them to have the best future possible, not to have an exploited generation that has somehow fallen into the hands of evil men. I want to see wholeness of life, not brokenness and slavery.”

- Kajen


Amal, Teaching at Sewing Hope

“I am concerned for the girls of this generation. Their continual use of social media concerns me. It concerns me that they can easily connect with the wrong people, they can be fooled and charmed by them. They can be lured into traps, and end up taking their lives as our society is closed and there is no one to listen or help when such problems arise.

We have to encourage schooling, the discipline of education, and it is our responsibility at Springs of Hope Foundation to look out for them, to check on them, to ask questions and to get under their skin sometimes, and to keep teaching this subject."


- Amal


Our young men were not trafficked but several were approached upon release from captivity to smuggle illegal items across borders. We lost a couple of students for whom the lure of thousands of dollars when living alone in a tent without family or work, was too great. There were those who had the fortitude of heart to refuse the temptations of such offers.


After ten years of camp living and poverty, not just in our camp but across the province, the pitfalls are very real, the temptations particularly for those rescued from ISIS, and those without education are great.


Several of our young women through the constant gang rape by their ISIS captors that they had been submitted to had been programmed for promiscuity. When going on picnics and trips we could never announce our destination ahead of time as they would “invite" guys to come to “visit" them. We could not leave them unsupervised for one minute.  They had been programmed for sex. There was no going to a public bathroom alone. There was no believing them. These were days of ongoing struggle to see them come out of the chains that still kept them bound even when released from the captivity of ISIS. 


“Those who profess to favour freedom yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without ploughing the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. The struggle may be a moral one or it may be a physical one or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”   

Frederick Douglass


We here at Springs of Hope Foundation are committed to this struggle.




Baby was very successfully operated on, on Tuesday January 30.  She is doing well. We are grateful. She should come out of hospital during this week and return home in about two.


The second baby has successfully had his first surgery. He made need further.


Can you help?

With your help we are training our staff and students to navigate life well and not be deceived. 


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