I first began tweeting about the Islamic State’s campaign to kidnap and enslave Yazidi women when I was in Iraq this past August. Though analysts were skeptical and online jihadists who defend IS vehemently denied my claims, I was communicating with the families of the kidnapped women and with those engaged in rescue efforts. I have even spoken by phone directly with kidnapped Yazidi women in captivity. One month ago, I sounded the alarm regarding the plight of the kidnapped Yazidi women for whom time is running out, detailing how an effective rescue operation would be possible. A number of journalists had written amazing stories, directly interviewing survivors—girls that had been kidnapped and placed into the homes of IS jihadists as slaves. These stories continue to emerge, TV interviews have taken place, and the UN issued a report on the kidnapping issue.
Despite the widespread doubt, I and the team I work with have been able to collect the names of thousands of kidnapped Yazidis—mostly women and girls, but also a number of kidnapped and imprisoned men that have been forced to convert to Islam. A month ago, our estimate of kidnapped Yazidis was below 4,000 individuals, but as we continue to gather data, our number now stands at almost 7,000.