A Christian woman held in captivity for three years at an Islamic State stronghold in Iraq is finally home.
Rana Esso had been held in Tal Afar, in north-west Iraq, since IS invaded the Nineveh Plains in August 2014. She was released on Sunday (27 August) after Iraqi security forces announced the city was fully liberated after a week of heavy fighting. The Iraqi Prime Minister today said the whole of the Nineveh governorate is back in Iraqi government control.
Esso, who returned to her family home in Qaraqosh (also known as Bakhdida, about 100km from Tal Afar) the next day, was released with three Yazidi women.
Qaraqosh, the largest mainly Christian town in Nineveh, was liberated from IS late last year. Only about 600 of the 5,000 or so Christian families there have been able to return, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Many of their houses and schools need repair.
Video footage posted on the Nineveh Plain Protection Units’ Facebook page shows jubilant scenes as Esso is welcomed home.
A source told World Watch Monitor that the three years in captivity will have taken “a huge toll on her”. Assyrian journalist Steven Nabil posted on his Twitter account that Esso “was enslaved by ISIS [and] sold as a sex slave between members”.
The Nineveh Plain Protection Units were set up in 2014 by the Assyrian Democratic Movement after IS’s invasion of Mosul and surrounding areas. They consist of local inhabitants. In March 2016, they officially joined the Nineveh Liberation Operation Command, the campaign led by the government of Iraq to defeat IS and liberate Nineveh and other occupied territories.