The crimes against women and children documented in Escaping ISIS, the new PBS Frontline airing Tuesday, are horrible to contemplate, but they demand that we do so. The hour chronicles many ISIS kidnappings, rapes, and murders against Yazidis, a religious minority targeted by the terrorist group. Frontline focuses primarily on the efforts of one citizen in northern Iraq, Khalil al-Dakhi, a lawyer who is running what amounts to an underground railroad to rescue brutalized Yazidi women and children.
Escaping ISIS asserts that ISIS members, in their interpretation of Islam, believe Yazidis are to be persecuted as “devil-worshipping pagans.” The group has consequently invaded towns and made off with hundreds of people, selling women as “sex slaves” and deeming girls as young as nine years old to be of marriageable age — which amounts to little more than an excuse to rape them.
Director Edward Watts constructs the hour around a few of al-Dakhi’s attempts to rescue ISIS’s victims, some of whom are then interviewed by Frontline. It’s harrowing material, as one girl talks of being gang-raped and says that, living without hope for months in captivity, she and other women “came up with ideas [about how] to kill ourselves.” Along with his allies, al-Dakhi risks danger — Frontline says at least three men have been killed during rescue operations — and the hour ends with the somber information that more than 2,500 Yazidis are still captives of ISIS.
Frontline: Escaping ISIS airs Tuesday on PBS. Check your local listings.