Damascus: A Yazidi teenager who was held as a sex slave by Isis says she was kidnapped and trafficked by the British jihadist and likely masked executioner Siddhartha Dhar.
Nihad Barakat said the man who is widely suspected to be the so-called “new Jihadi John” from Isis propaganda videos is now one of the most senior commanders among foreign fighters in Mosul, the group’s Iraqi stronghold.
Dhar, a former British Hindu who preferred to go by the nickname Abu Rumaysah after his conversion to Islam, skipped police bail to travel to Syria with his wife and young children in 2014.
She spoke out in March about how she was beaten, raped and forced to marry a militant in Syria before she was able to escape – only to be recaptured and abused all over again, the second time becoming pregnant.
Now, in an interview for a new British Muslim TV series about life on the frontline in Iraq, she has revealed for the first time the names of the foreign fighters who enslaved her and subjected her to this horrific experience.
Ms Barakat said the first man she was forced to marry was the notorious Australian extremist Abdul Salam Mahmoud – one and a half months before he was killed in Syria, a fact which made headlines around the world.
Describing her initial capture to presenter Joseph Hayat, she said: “The Isis leaders told us we had to convert to Islam or we will be killed.
“They separated us into three groups, men, married women and single women, and then took the single women and girls to Mosul. “Sometimes they would come and take girls for their pleasure. They did everything to the girls.”
Beaten every day “for being Yazidi”, Ms Barakat finally seized an opportunity to escape after Mahmoud’s death – but was caught near Kirkuk as she tried to make contact with the remaining members of her family.
“When I was captured near Kirkuk, they took me to another leader from Mosul. His name was Abu Dhar,” she said. “He also took Yazidi girls for himself. Every day he would tell me that I had to marry another man.”
It is difficult to verify that the “Abu Dhar” who kidnapped Ms Barakat is the same man as the most-wanted British jihadi. As well as Dhar’s legal name and his “kunya” – or nickname – Abu Rumaysah, he has also gone by the name Saiful Islam since his conversion in his late teens.
He is thought to have replaced Mohammed Emwazi – known as ‘Jihadi John’ before he was killed in a drone strike – as the masked apparent executioner of hostages in Isis propaganda videos.
Speaking to The Independent ahead of the premiere of the new series, Hayat said he was “very confident” Ms Barakat knew who she was talking about.
“From the information I have, Dhar is deemed a leader in Mosul now, and she was very insistent on that name,” he said. “We asked her later if these were foreigners or ordinary Iraqis and she said they were foreigners.
“When we showed her pictures of Siddhartha Dhar she recognised them but went very cold,” he said. “She didn’t want to go further and got very agitated.”
Now 17, Ms Barakat has been working to raise awareness of her people’s plight with the British-based AMAR foundation, which runs facilities at the Khanke refugee camp in northern Iraq where she lives with her mother, father and siblings.
But her decision to speak out has not been taken lightly. Two of her sisters and two brothers are still held captive by Isis, and when she came to London she called on the West to “help my people, to save them from Daesh [another name for Isis]”.
When she fled Isis for the second time, Ms Barakat was helped by the Canadian charity CYCI, which pays local agents to get Yazidis out of captivity. It is a costly and controversial process.
But Ms Barakat paid another price, she says. “I managed to escape, but I had to leave the baby behind”, she told the audience at the AMAR event. “It’s not a life, we are not living a life until the rest of our people are released by Daesh.”
Dhar’s case has had a lasting impact on the UK, after he was able to leave the country with his family on a coach to Paris, despite his six previous arrests and the fact he was only free on bail.
Police reportedly wrote to Dhar’s address to remind him of the need to surrender his passport – by which point he was already in Syria. On his arrival in Isis territories, Dhar tweeted: “What a shoddy security system Britain must have to allow me to breeze through Europe to [Isis].”
The Home Office has since announced new powers to restrict the ability of terror suspects to travel, measures Home Secretary Theresa May said would “help stop suspected terrorists from fleeing the UK to join Daesh”.
The documentary series Hayat in Iraq starts Monday, 2 May, 7pm on British Muslim TV, Sky Channel 845.