Content warning: this post contains details of physical and sexual violence, which may distressing to some readers.
Captured, beaten, violated, passed from one ISIS fighter to another. This is the reality for thousands of women and children currently being held captive in Iraq.
Lamiya Aji Bashar was one of them.
Abducted from the northern Iraqi village of Kocho in the summer of 2014, the 18-year-old was “owned” by four men in two years, each of whom sold her to the next, reports AP.
Effectively held prisoner in their homes, she was bashed, handcuffed, repeatedly raped, even forced to make suicide vests and car bombs.
Lamiya tried to flee from her captors four times, before finally managing to escape into government-controlled territory in March after her family paid US$800 to smugglers.
It wasn’t a clean getaway.
En route, with IS group fighters in hot pursuit, a landmine exploded, blinding Lamiya in her right eye and badly burning the skin on her face.
Her two companions, one aged eight and the other 20, were killed in the blast.
“I managed in the end, thanks to God, I managed to get away from those infidels,” the 18-year-told the AP from a bed at her uncle’s home in the northern Iraqi town of Baadre.
“Even if I had lost both eyes, it would have been worth it, because I have survived them.”
She counts herself as one of the lucky ones. Somewhere, she said, her nine-year-old sister Mayada remains captive.
Layida and her sisters were among thousands of Yazidi women and children taken prisoner by IS forces in northern Iraq that Summer.
The Sunni extremists are determined to eliminate the Kurdish-speaking minority, viewing them as less than human due to their adherence to their own ancient faith.
These roughly 3000 captives are now traded using smartphone apps and online databases, with advertisements featuring their photograph and the name of their current owner so that they can be detected if they attempt to escape through IS checkpoints.
The AP came across one such advertisement, which read “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old… Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.”
Arab and Kurdish smugglers, like the one that saved Lamiya, have managed to free an average of 134 people a month over the past two years, according to AP.
But IS has begun to hit back recently, managing to reduce those numbers to just 39 in the past six weeks.
As one of those fortunate escapees, Lamiya is due to be reunited with her other siblings who now live in Germany.
But despite the promise of freedom, of safety, of a new life, the 18-year-old says her heart will always remain in Iraq.
“We had a nice house with a big farm ... I was going to school,” she said. “It was beautiful.”