A historic church in eastern Mosul, Iraq has been used by the Islamic State to imprison and abuse Yazidi women and girls, according to an Iraqi army officer.
Iraqi officials have revealed that the historic Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephraim, one of the region’s largest Christian sites, has been used by ISIS to imprison at least 200 Yazidi girls and women.
Tiny pieces of pink and yellow underwear and flower headbands belonging to the very young Yazidi sex slaves have been found on the floor of the iconic church, Fox News reported.
“We found documents where they questioned them about their age, whether married or single, virgin or not, period or not,” said Iraqi Forces 1st Lt. Waseem Nenwaya, adding that ISIS also stored other documents from their various departments at the church.
In June 2015, the terror group announced that it is converting the church to a “mosque of the mujahideen” and took down the cross from its dome. The militants also took away all of the furniture from the building and removed all the Christian symbols. The church was then cloaked with the black-and-white ISIS flag that declares in Arabic, “There is no God but Allah”
Efforts to restore the church are now underway, and the country’s Christian Affairs Department has partnered with several humanitarian-focused nongovernmental organizations from France and Italy to help assist with the repairs.
More than 6,500 Yazidis were kidnapped when ISIS stormed their ancestral home of Sinjar in early August 2014. Some have been forced to train to become jihadists while others were turned into sex slaves.
Thousands have managed to escape over the course of the terror group’s reign, but some have been murdered and about 2,000 remain unaccounted for.
“Some locals have come forward and delivered girls, whom they were protecting, to the troops. But there are not many left,” Nenwaya said.
Yazidi leaders have previously shown photographs of jihadists burning babies on a slab of sheet metal.
Last week, local activists have reported that ISIS publicly caged and burned 19 Yazidi girls alive for refusing to have sex with militants.
Iraqi government forces liberated eastern Mosul in January and began the offensive to retake the western side about a month later. After taking control of a neighboring district on Thursday, the military announced that they were about to complete the encirclement of ISIS’ stronghold in the Old City of Mosul.
It is believed that some surviving Yazidi slaves have been transferred to the terrorist group’s stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. The Syrian city is also being pummeled by coalition forces with the help of Kurdish ground troops, and it is getting closer to falling out of ISIS control each day.