An Iraqi television network has been criticised after it brought a Yazidi woman face-to-face with the Islamic State (Isil) fighter who raped her in an encounter which ended with the young woman collapsing in front of the camera.
Ashwaq Haji Hamid was 14 when she and thousands of other Yazidi girls were kidnapped from their homes on Mount Sinjar in Iraq by Isil fighters in 2014. She was given to a jihadist named Mohammed Rashid, who handcuffed and raped her repeatedly.
Ms Hamid and other women escaped by drugging their captors and she ultimately fled to Germany and sought asylum. But her rapist also reached Germany and she ran into him in a horrifying chance encounter on the street in Stuttgart in 2018.
The pair were brought together once again last month for a special news report on al-Iraqiya television. Rashid, now in prison in Iraq, was brought in front of Ms Hamid in handcuffs and a prison jumpsuit and forced to listen to the pain he caused her.
“You destroyed my life. You robbed me of all my dreams,” the 19-year-old told him, repeatedly demanding that he look her in the eye. “Look up. Do you have feelings? Do you have honour? I was 14 years old, as old as your daughter, your son, or your sister.”
The footage ended with Ms Hamid collapsing at Rashid’s feet, drawing criticism from trauma experts who warned that such staged confrontations have the potential to re-open the deep wounds of victims.
“They cared about ratings of the show more than her,” Dr Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, a Kurdish-German psychologist who works with Yazidis suffering from trauma, told the Daily Telegraph. "I know the survivor as my patient and it was medically an absolute contradiction to her severe trauma (to do the TV interview), as we saw with her fainting."
Nibras Khudaida, a Yazidi activist now living in the US said: “It’s shame that the Iraqi TV show invited the rapist and the Yazidi girl to meet for the first time on TV. She is clearly not recovered yet. When will the men understand how to treat these women?”
Footage of the clip has been seen around the world with many on social media praising Ms Hamid for her courage in confronting her tormentor. In an interview with Kurdish television after the footage went viral, Ms Hamid said she was glad to have had the chance to see Rashid.
“I released all of my grievances I had held in for five years when I spat him,” she said. But she added that the encounter brought back waves of emotions from her time in captivity. “When I saw him I thought that he will force me into slavery again,” she said.
Rashid confessed to committing atrocities in front of a Baghdad court. Al-Iraqiya television could not be reached for comment.
“I was very glad I saw he was put into the court, and I was very fortunate that my dad was next to me.. I released all of my grievances I had held in for 5 years when I spat at him.” Ashwaq, a #Yazidi girl, came face to face with her ISIS captor at a court pic.twitter.com/igaThBWPK4— Yazidi الايزيدية (@Ezidi2) December 2, 2019
Such onscreen confrontations between former Isil victims and tormentors have become popular recently and supporters argue they offer a chance for closure as women are able to see their abusers brought to justice.
But critics say they are essentially voyeuristic exercises designed to be more entertaining for audiences at home than truly healing for the women involved.
Stacey Dooley, the BBC journalist, was criticised after she staged a similar encounter between a Yazidi woman and an Isil commander in Iraqi captivity. During the interview, the commander claimed to have raped more than 200 women.