Martha (bottom, centre) with a team of volunteers from the UK and local staff in Iraq, June 2016
Lifeline Network International would like to congratulate their youngest network member, 16 year old Martha Abdelmassih, on raising an incredible £1,330 for a very important cause.
As part of their campaign to establish an Islamic State across the Middle East, the jihadist militant group ISIS took more than 3,400 Yazidi women hostage in Iraq in 2014. Some of the girls were as young as 5 or 6 years old. The women and girls are taken to markets where they are sold as slaves, abused sexually and physically and passed from owner to owner. Many of them are forced to marry and bear children, with no clue as to whether they’ll even live to see the next day. One survivor told us her story:
Iman (whose name has been changed) was 15 years old when ISIS abducted her and 45 other family members after trying to escape, in August 2014. For months she was moved from town to town, sold to several men and abused by all of them. One day a man bought her and stated that he would marry her – she wasn’t given a choice. After 4 months of rape she became pregnant. Not wanting to become a mother at such a young age, she got rid of the baby. When her husband found out he verbally abused her and said she’d be taken to the market the next day to be sold once again. Luckily another one of girls living in the same house had acquired a phone. That night, they snuck out into the freezing cold, using the phone to contact someone who led them through the mountains to a refugee camp in Duhok.
“What could I do?” Iman asked. She felt helpless. She wishes to ask ISIS “Why did you do that to us? What wrong did we ever do to you? We are innocent, we did not even harm you!” Iman now lives in constant angst, hating her body, unable to live with the memories she suffers with. The only thing that keeps her going is the thought that somewhere out there, maybe her family is alive… maybe she’ll get to see them again.
Moved by the plight of these women and girls, Martha set out to raise funds to run a project to support them. Run by Lifeline Iraq, the organisation run by Martha’s dad, Wagih Abdelmassih, the ‘Overcoming crISIS’ project will train 30 victim counsellors in Iraq, to support women and girls who manage to escape from ISIS. Many of these young women have suffered immense trauma, and it is so important to ensure that they have the opportunity to access the care they need to start to come to terms with what they have been through.
Martha mobilised her whole school, Stockley Academy in West London, to raise the funds needed to send a psychologist to Iraq to train volunteer counsellors. By holding assemblies, raising awareness, arranging a non-school uniform day and a number of other fundraising activities in partnership with other young people living in London, Martha raised over £1,330. We are so impressed with Martha’s go getting attitude and passion to make a difference for this group of women and girls
Read more about our work in Iraq