Estranged Yazidi family wins custody battle in Turkey

An Iraqi Yazidi woman, Hadiya Hussein, won a three-year-long legal battle for the custody of her two estranged siblings in a Turkish court, news website Duvar reported on Friday.

Hussein had lost trace of her siblings after an Islamic State (ISIS) member Turkmen family smuggled the children, now aged 9 and 11, into Turkey following the attack by the jihadist group on Iraq’s Yazidi heartland of Sinjar in 2014.

The family attempted to register the children as their own, but the children were taken into state custody and placed in a foster home after a Turkish social worker alerted authorities.

Hussein had been abducted by ISIS during the 2014 attack, and was freed when in 2017 her family tracked her down in a dark web auction and paid off her captors. After she tracked down her siblings, a Turkish court demanded that she prove her parents’ death in order to return custody. As the parents were possibly buried in a mass grave, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD) got involved with the case.

The story drew international attention, with journalist Hale Gönültaş receiving a journalism prize over her coverage. Hussein’s years-long efforts had been an international diplomatic problem for Ankara, Duvar said, and another chapter began for Hussein when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was informed and took action to resolve the situation.

Erdoğan personally handed over the two children to Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Nechirvan Barzani following their meeting in Ankara on Friday.

The children were taken back to Iraqi Kurdistan, and were reunited with their sister in Erbil.