By Lin Taylor
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Yazidi women who have been raped, enslaved or married off to Islamic State militants in Iraq will be welcomed back into the community, the leader of the minority group said on Wednesday, in a gesture to help remove the stigma of rape.
Speaking at an event in London, Prince Tahseen Saeed Ali urged the international community to rescue Yazidi women and children still enslaved by Islamic State, also known as ISIL.
"The Yazidi community would provide all the mental and health support for these girls until they recover from the atrocities and what they have been suffering," he said through a translator.
"Every woman who comes back, we respect her. If they get married (to an Islamic State militant), everything is ok," he said at the event organized by the AMAR Foundation, a UK-based charity providing education and healthcare in the Middle East.
Islamic State militants have killed, raped and enslaved thousands of Yazidis since 2014, accusing them of being "devil worshippers" and forcing more than 400,000 of the religious minority to flee their homes in northern Iraq.
According to the United Nations, the Sunni militants enslaved about 7,000 women and girls in 2014, mainly Yazidis whose faith blends elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam, and is still holding 3,500, some as sex slaves.
The United States, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have all described the Islamist militant group's actions as genocide.
British politician Emma Nicholson, the founder and chair of the AMAR Foundation, said the Prince's remarks were "unique" and would allow many rescued Yazidi women to move on from their trauma and find acceptance within their community.
"Being raped is the most atrocious stigma. In many nations, the family won't have you back again," she told the London audience.
"What the Prince is saying is a unique statement: what happened to you under ISIL didn't happen. That means babies who are ISIL babies can be brought back (into the community), and this has opened up the doors for everyone to have normal lives."
Prince Tahseen's comments come just days after Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad Basee Taha was appointed a U.N. goodwill ambassador for human trafficking victims.
Taha said she was abducted by Islamic State militants from her village in Iraq in August 2014, and taken to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, where she and thousands of other Yazidi women and children were exchanged by militants as gifts.
She was tortured and raped repeatedly before she escaped three months later.
Moved by Taha's plight, international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said she would represent Yazidi women who have been victims of sexual slavery, rape and genocide.
Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, aims to prosecute the Islamist group through the International Criminal Court for their crimes against the Yazidi community.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Jo Griffin; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)