ISIS fanatic Taha Al-Jumailly, 29, was sentenced to life in a court in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday after being found guilty of genocide
He becomes the first person to be convicted for genocide against the minority
After hearing the verdict, Al-Jumailly collapsed in the courtroom
He was also found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes, aiding and abetting war crimes and bodily harm with fatal consequences
Last month, in separate trial, his ex-wife Jennifer Wenisch was found guilty of allowing a slave girl to die of thirst
She was sentenced to spend a decade in prison
Wenisch, 30, converted to Islam in 2013 and went to Iraq to join ISIS
An ISIS fanatic who chained up a five-year-old Yazidi girl in the sun and let her die of thirst as punishment for wetting the bed collapsed in a German court today after he was jailed for life for genocide.
Taha Al-Jumailly, who covered his face with a folder at the Frankfurt court, passed out as he became the first person in the world to be convicted of genocide against the minority.
The 29-year-old Iraqi, who was arrested in Greece in May 2019 and extradited to Germany that October, was also found guilty of crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes, aiding and abetting war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death.
His German now ex-wife, Jennifer Wenisch, was arrested while trying to renew her identity papers at the German embassy in Ankara in 2016, and deported back to Germany. She is on trial for murder, war crimes and membership in a terrorist organization.
Al-Jumailly and Wenisch, ‘purchased’ a Yazidi woman and child as household ‘slaves’ while living in then ISIS-occupied Mosul in 2015.
They later moved to Fallujah. While living there in the summer of 2015, after a string of such abuses, Al-Jumailly chained the five-year-old girl to a window outdoors in heat rising to 122°F [50°C], as a punishment for wetting her mattress, leading her to die of thirst.
The couple also forced her mother to walk barefoot on the scorching ground outside, inflicting severe burns, the prosecution claims.
Mother and daughter had been kidnapped in the summer of 2014 after ISIS invaded the Sinjar region of Iraq.
They were repeatedly sold on ISIS “slave markets”, prosecutors say
Jennifer Wenisch last month, was sentenced to 10 years in prison over the girl’s death. The girl’s mother, who survived captivity, testified at both trials.
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been involved in a campaign for ISIS crimes against the Yazidi to be recognized as a genocide, was part of the team representing the Yazidi girl’s mother but did not appear at court today. The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, have for years been persecuted by ISIS militants who have killed hundreds of men, raped women and forcibly recruited children as fighters.
In May, UN special investigators reported that they had collected ‘clear and convincing evidence’ of genocide by ISIS against the Yazidis.
‘This is a historical moment for the Yazidi community,’ Natia Navrouzov, a lawyer and member of the NGO Yazda, which gathers evidence of crimes committed by IS against the Yazidis, told AFP ahead of the verdict.
‘It is the first time in Yazidi history that a perpetrator stands in a court of law for genocide charges,’ she said.
The trial of Al-Jumailly,, who joined ISIS in 2013, ‘sends a clear message’, according to Navrouzov.
‘It doesn’t matter where the crimes were committed and it doesn’t matter where the perpetrators are, thanks to the universal jurisdiction, they can’t hide and will still be put on trial.’
It comes after Taha’s ex-wife was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Munich court last month in a separate trial over the war crime of letting the five-year-old Yazidi ‘slave’ girl of thirst in the sun.
Jennifer Wenisch, 30, from Lohne in Lower Saxony, who was a member of the ISIS hisbah or ‘Morality Police’, was found guilty of ‘two crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement’, as well as aiding and abetting the girl’s killing and being a member of a terrorist organization.
Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and made her way to Iraq to join the Islamic State, where she and her husband ‘purchased’ a Yazidi woman and child as household slaves according to the court.
‘After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat,’ prosecutors said during the trial.
‘The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.’
Her sentence, handed out by the Higher Regional Court in Munich, was the culmination of what is thought to be one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the Islamic State group’s persecution of the Yazidi community. Presiding judge Reinhold Baier handed down the verdict to Wenisch, after declaring the child was ‘defenseless and helplessly exposed to the situation,’ and that Wenisch ‘had to reckon from the beginning that the child, who was tied up in the heat of the sun, was in danger of dying’.
When asked during the trial about her failure to save the girl, Wenisch said she was ‘afraid’ that her husband would ‘push her or lock her up’.
Identified only by her first name Nora, the Yazidi girl’s mother has repeatedly testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment allegedly visited on her child.
The defence had claimed the mother’s testimony is untrustworthy and said there was no proof that the girl, who was taken to hospital after the incident, actually died.
Wenisch’s lawyers had called for her to receive just a two-year suspended sentence for supporting a terrorist organization.
Wenisch herself claimed she was being ‘made an example of for everything that has happened under ISIS’ at the close of the trial, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, and appeared to show remorse for the crimes for which she was found guilty.
Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and is thought to have left Germany to join ISIS the following year, travelling through Turkey and Syria to reach her eventual destination of Mosul in Iraq.
Recruited in mid-2015 to the group’s self-styled hisbah morality police, she patrolled city parks in IS-occupied Fallujah and Mosul.
Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, her task was to ensure strict ISIS rules on dress code, public behavior and bans on alcohol and tobacco.
In January 2016, she visited the German embassy in Ankara to apply for new identity papers. When she left the mission, she was arrested and extradited days later to Germany.
Wenisch’s trial, which began in April 2019, is one of the first examples of court proceedings over the Islamic State group’s brutal treatment of Yazidis.
A Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, the Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by the jihadists beginning in 2015.
Germany has charged several German and foreign nationals with war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out abroad, using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows crimes to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.
A handful of female suspects are among those who have appeared in the dock.
In November 2020, a German woman named as Nurten J. was charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of Islamic State.
In October 2020, another German court sentenced the German-Tunisian wife of a rapper turned jihadist to 42 months in prison for having taken part in the enslavement of a Yazidi girl in Syria.
Driven from their homes, slaughtered or sold as sex slaves – the Yazidis suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of ISIS thugs who considered them a race of ‘devil worshippers’.
Originally numbering around 550,000 and based largely in northern Iraq, the ethnic group came under attack by the extremists in 2014 with militants telling them they must embrace their radical version of Islam or die.
Some 5,000 were slaughtered by the jihadists while a further 7,000 women and girls were taken as sex slaves.
The genocide began with an attack on Sinjar City, Iraq and neighboring towns on August 3, 2014.
The people in the area attempted to defend themselves, but ISIS fighters shelled local fighters and eventually broke through – killing anyone caught outside.
The Shiite Zainab shrine in the city was destroyed and anyone resisting was executed – with those left alive forced to convert to Islam and swear their allegiance to the group.
Amidst the fighting, some 200,000 people are believed to have attempted to flee Sinjar City and the surrounding towns and villages.
Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish but adhere to a religion founded some 6,000 years ago by an Ummayyad sheikh.
The religion, while it predates Christianity and Islam, incorporates elements of each, as well as Zoroastrianism, an ancient belief founded by an Iranian philosopher in around 6BC.
The Yazidis live in small communities mainly scattered through northwest Iraq, north west Syria and south east Turkey, although members are also found in Georgia and Armenia.
They follow a chief sheikh as their religious leader and an emir, or prince, as the secular head.
The religion is centered around worship of the fallen archangel Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel.
But unlike Satan’s fall from grace, Melek Tawwus was readmitted into Heaven by God and represents humanity’s potential for both good and evil.
For this reason, the Yazidis have unfairly garnered a reputation as devil-worshippers among certain faiths, and have faced centuries of alienation, oppression and attempted extermination. Yazidis – who do not believe in hell or evil – deny they are.
Many Yazidi traditions are shrouded in such secrecy that most have never been witnessed by outsiders. Yazidis regard marriage outside their faith as a sin punishable by ostracism or even death to restore lost honor.
Around 50,000 Yazidis fled into the Sinjar Mountains, where they were then trapped without food or water – with reports suggesting the group had been surrounded by ISIS.
Not all of the Yazidis in the area managed to escape to the mountains though, and reports at the time suggested hundreds still remained in nearby villages.
Around 300 men were killed in Hardan, 200 between Adnaniya and Jazeera and around 80 in Qiniyeh – while others were killed for refusing to convert to Islam.
Horrifying stories of atrocities emerged at the time. They included the recollections of Samo Ilyas Ali who described seeing women and children crying out for help while being buried alive by ISIS thugs.
During the mountainous siege, ISIS also captured around 7,000 women and girls, forcing them to become sex slaves. Any children that were captured were forcibly converted to Islam, taught Arabic and were banned from speaking their native Kurdish.
ISIS militants consider the Yazidis infidels and subjected them to systematic killings, rape, and pillage.
In the summer of 2014, ISIS killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yazidis; more than fifty thousand survivors fled to Sinjar Mountain, in the baking August heat. Thousands of Yazidis were subjected to inhumane treatment in ISIS captivity, but as ISIS has lost territory, international interest in them has faded.
More than 3,000 enslaved Yazidi women and children in Iraq have been freed from IS captivity, but life is far from normal.
The United Nations described the massacres of the Yazidis as genocide with UN investigators estimating that more than 5,000 Yazidis were rounded up and slaughtered in the 2014 attack.
In 2018, the UN reported that more than 200 mass graves containing 12,000 bodies, including women, children and the disabled, had been found in Iraq since Islamic State’s brutal three-year reign.
UN investigators verified 202 graves in northern Iraq as a ‘legacy of Isil’s terror’, according to a joint report by the UN mission to Iraq and UN office for human rights.
The graves date from 2014 to 2017 when ISIS ruled some of Iraq’s largest cities and towns.
Investigations have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls.
Having taken around 7,000 women and girls, initially, many of the women and children were handed out as gifts to fighters who took part in the offensive.
According to the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, ISIS’s ‘cabinet’ reportedly constructed a slave system, enforced by security agencies, under the supervision of Islamic courts.
The group operated centralized slave markets in Mosul, Raqqa and other cities.
At the market in the Syrian city of Palmyra, women walked a runway for ISIS members to bid on. Others distributed the women by lottery.
Managing the robust system turned out to be difficult, however.
Slaves were resold for personal profit. Some ISIS members made tens of thousands of dollars ransoming captives back to their families.
ISIS officials tried banning separating women from their children and the posting of women’s pictures on social media. They ruled slave sales must be registered by an Islamic court.
One woman, Taloo – who wanted her name known publicly as she campaigns for justice for Yazidis – said one owner forced her to get pregnant, before changing his mind and forcing her to have an abortion.
She only managed to escape, taking her daughter and sister-in-law with her, by paying a smuggler.
Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad has previously spoken about her own experiences at the hands of ISIS sex traffickers.
Writing in her autobiography, she said: ‘We could hear the commotion downstairs where militants were registering and organizing, and when the first man entered the room, all the girls started screaming.’
The entrance of the men would terrify the women who, Ms Murad says ‘would double over and vomit on the floor’. They would then ask if the women were virgins to which the vendor would reply ‘of course’.
She said: ‘The militants touched us anywhere they wanted, running their hands over our breasts and our legs, as if we were animals.’
Nadia Murad gives her Nobel Peace Prize lecture 2018
Murad had found herself at the hands of ISIS sex traffickers after her home village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attacked.
She was captured alongside her sisters and lost six brothers and her mother.
Eventually she was able to escape her ISIS captors, smuggling herself out of Iraq – she later went as a refugee to Germany in early 2015.
Elsewhere, in 2018, an Iraqi politician claimed that a Yazidi sex slave unwittingly ate her one-year-old son after ISIS fanatics cooked the child and served it with rice after starving her for three days.
The starving woman had been kept captive in a cellar for days without food or water before she was tricked by her guards, according to MP Vian Dakhill.
During a harrowing television interview, Dakhill told Egyptian TV channel Extra News: ‘One of the women whom we managed to retrieve from ISIS said that she was held in a cellar for three days without food or water. ‘
Afterwards, they brought her a plate of rice and meat. She ate the food because she was very hungry.
‘When she was finished they said to her: “We cooked your one-year-old son that we took from you, and this is what you just ate”.’
Dakhill also revealed that one little girl, aged just ten, had been raped to death before her father and five sisters.
‘One of the girls said that they took six of her sisters,’ she said. ‘Her younger sister, a ten-year-old girl, was raped to death in front of her father and sisters. She was ten-years-old.’
Another harrowing account belongs to Lamiya Haji Bashar, who at one time, was threatened with having her foot chopped off or execution after attempting to flee from her captors.
During her time trapped in the ISIS heartland of Syria and northern Iraq, Lamiya saw children sold to old men as sex slaves, and she was forced to help make suicide bombs.
At one point Lamiya was thrown into a room to be gang-raped by 40 fanatics, and after, she and one of her sisters were sold to different fighters, fetching about £100 each.
Eventually, after multiple escape attempts, Lamiya was kept by a surgeon, who made her run errands in his hospital. She was given a mobile phone so that he could summon her – but Lamiya used it to contact an uncle in Kurdistan.
At that point, she was being held close to the Kurdish front line, and her uncle paid a smuggler $7,500 (about £6,100) to get her out.
In the summer of 2017, Iraqi forces finally drove ISIS out of Mosul and most of northern Iraq. But for the Yazidis, a long persecuted religious and ethnic minority who practice a faith with pre-Zoroastrian roots and Islamic and Christian influences, stability remains a distant and elusive prospect.