Date: August 31, 2017
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 the self-described Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plains, in August 2014. She was released on 27 August after Iraqi security forces announced the city was fully liberated after a week of heavy fighting. On 31 August, the Iraqi Prime Minister 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, 28 August, was released with three Yazidi women.
Qaraqosh itself, the largest mainly Christian town in Nineveh, was liberated from Islamic State late last year. Only about 600 of the 5000 or so Christian families there have been able to return, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Many of their houses, schools and so on 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 the invasion of Mosul and the Nineveh plain by the Islamic State. 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 the Islamic State and liberate Nineveh and other occupied territories.