Baghdad (Iraq), 21 August 2023 - What we witnessed, particularly the girls among us, was truly horrific,” says Iman Abdullah, 22, from Sinjar, Iraq, a Yazidi survivor of terrorism, who was kidnapped by ISIS nearly a decade ago.
To mark International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, UNODC is publishing Iman’s story, who was held captive for a year along with another girl from her village. Her kidnappers were “trafficking and raping girls, in addition to various forms of torture,” she recalls.
Iman told UNODC that after she was freed, “it was hard for me to come to terms with what had happened. It was a traumatic experience, and I was only 13 years old at the time.”
Iman is one of many survivors of terrorism who took part in a UNODC psychosocial support programme in Iraq, implemented in partnership with the Lebanese Association for Victims of Terrorism (AVT-L)
“I participated in this programme so that I could tell my story, be strong, and get my message across to the world,” Iman said. “I gained valuable experience in assisting girls, as there are thousands of them who have become victims of ISIS,” she emphasized, voicing her hope that the programme will also help other victims, “as there are thousands in camps who are in need of support.”
When asked about her wish for the future, Iman said “I hope that we will return to our home and live a normal life like any human being, as these are our rights.”
“Victims of terrorism need a broad range of support from government and community actors to help them recover from the trauma they have experienced and to rebuild their lives,” says Masood Karimipour, chief of UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch.
Supporting their physical and mental rehabilitation and successful reintegration into communities is essential, as victims of terrorism often face stigmatization when they return to their communities.
UNODC is promoting a coordinated approach across the Government, at the local community level and benefiting from the work of civil society to ensure that victims have the range of assistance they require.
By providing a platform for victims’ voices to be heard, showcasing their resilience and strength can be inspiration for the many thousands of victims of terrorism worldwide.
UNODC is working with partners around the globe to ensure that there is justice for victims of terrorism by promoting accountability for those who have committed such heinous crimes.
This must be done in the context of the wider international community's efforts to address the root causes and conditions which can lead to terrorism including lack of socio-economic opportunities, weak governance, and human rights violations. UNODC contributes to these efforts by building crime prevention and criminal justice policies and practices that respect human rights, build resilience from the ground up, strengthen alliances between authorities and civil society, prevent radicalization to violence, and ensure accountability for terrorism crimes. Only by working to address these conditions in a whole-of-society response, can we effectively prevent terrorism in the long-term.
The International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism is marked annually on 21 August. Despite international condemnation of terrorism, victims and survivors of terrorism often struggle to have their voices heard, their needs supported, and their rights upheld. Victims often feel forgotten and neglected once the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack fades, with profound consequences for them. UNODC wishes to highlight the importance of understanding who is a victim of terrorism, what are victims’ needs, the role of the community, and the achievements of the project.
The UNODC psychosocial programme referenced in this story was made possible thanks to funding from the Netherlands.
To learn more about UNODC’s work on terrorism prevention, click here.