ISIS rape victims are choosing to keep their babies rather than abort them

Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk provinceReuters

When ISIS militants took thousands of Yazidi women and girls as their sex slaves, they found themselves at a loss when they returned to their communities pregnant.

Their spiritual leader, widely known as "Baba Sheikh," has urged the community to welcome them back without judgment because they have been "subjected to a matter outside their control."

However, their pregnancies and newborn infants are a different thing entirely. "The victims are our daughters and sisters, but it is unacceptable in our religion to allow the birth of any children if both parents are not Yazidis," Baba Sheikh told VOA in a phone interview.

"It is also tribally unacceptable and a source of shame," he added. "If such children are born, wouldn't people ask who their fathers are? Are they Afghans? Are they Europeans?"

Because of this, abortion is seen as a solution. Even though abortion is illegal in Iraq, the ban is lifted in the case of rape.

However, a lot of women do not want to undergo the procedure. Rezan Dler, a female lawmaker in the Iraqi Council of Representatives who has been working closely with abducted Yazidis, revealed that it is not uncommon for rape victims to still want to keep their babies.

"A Yazidi woman who was pregnant for eight months when she escaped IS, she wanted to keep her baby, but her husband insisted on divorcing her if she refused to have an abortion. The couple finally separated. The woman is now living in a refugee camp with her 5-month-old child," Dler shared.

In some cases, the rape victim chooses to give birth and then gives her baby up for adoption to infertile Kurdish couples.

Some women are so determined to protect their babies that "they've indicated they would rather stay under IS slavery if returning home meant losing their babies," Dler further told VOA.

Dler hopes that the law would protect these women and their wishes, but sadly, the law is not on their side. Xamosh Omar, a court judge and a legal consultant for the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament, said that Iraqi law dictates that these children will be treated as if they're born of adultery, so their mothers will have no right to raise them.

As a woman, Dler's heart goes out to these rape victims. "I am a woman and I understand what raped Yazidi women must go through. But for the Iraqi parliament, this is a shameful topic to be addressed. I doubt they will allow this issue to be even brought into the parliament for discussion, let alone finding a legal answer," she said.