Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, The story behind the story: Freeing Yazidi Girls From ISIS Nightmare

Jan Ilhan Kizilhan joined our list of speakers today to talk about a very serious and horrific subject. A narrative about a crisis that hits us globally at this very moment, whether you realise it or not.

The refugee stories that Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan shares are the tales of thousands of women and girls who are kidnapped, held captive and are raped by IS-soldiers.

Minority Groups

“To explain this situation is very difficult,” says prof. dr. Ilhan Kizilhan, “because to explain we have to understand the hatred that lies beneath the terror of IS. If we look throughout history, we can see that there have always been minority groups that fall victim to genocide. Look at examples in Rwanda, Bosnia and the Second World War.”


In 2014, IS kidnapped more than 7000 Yazidis, a Kurdish, non-Muslim religious minority, in Iraq. Among those captives are many girls and women who are systematically raped and abused by IS-soldiers. Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan leads a special project that strives to bring more than 1000 Yazidi girls to Germany for treatment.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ilhan Kizilhan gives physical and psychological treatment to these victims, hoping they can overcome their traumas. As a clear example, Yasmin, a 16 year-old girl from a small village in Iraq, was mutilated and raped by IS. She was brought to Germany and has undergone her 24th reconstructive surgery but her dream is heart-warming. To be able to be a ‘normal’ girl and go for ice cream in a café. The audience is clearly moved by the girls’ personal stories, but Ilhan Kizilhan urges us that nothing will change unless these girls are offered the chance to get back their voice and more people need to take action. Most significantly he pleads that genocide is a war crime and the UN should start treating it as such.

Fight for Democracy

To this very day thousands of Yazidi girls and women are still held captive by IS. Prof. Dr. Dr. Ilhan Kizilhan believes that the world has to keep fighting: for them, for democracy and he stresses that we should not be silenced by totalitarian regimes. We have to learn from history, it has shown us that throughout the years minority groups have been attacked, abused and murdered. It is our moral duty to keep defending them.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, studied psychology, law, sociology and oriental studies in Germany and the United States. He is chief clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and trauma therapist (DeGPT). He is head of a special project that strives to bring 1.100 Yazidi girls and women to Germany for psychological and post-traumatic treatment after being held captive and suffering abuse at the hands of IS. Furthermore he is the author of numerous books and professional articles, as well as a reviewer for several international journals. 

Text by: Anjuly de Geus