Skip to main content

tv   Frontline  PBS  July 14, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

10:00 pm
>> tonight on frontline, they live under the veil in fear. >> were they also raping the nine-year-old? >> with undercover footage, frontline shows the islamic state's brutal treatment of women. >> (crying) >> and follows an underground network helping them escape. >> tonight on frontline, "escaping isis." >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
10:01 pm
thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support for frontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional support is provided by the park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. at the wyncote foundation. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen, through the yuen foundation.
10:02 pm
>> narrator: khalil al-dakhi is
10:03 pm
returning to his village in northern iraq eight months after isis overran the area. he is a yazidi, a religious minority targeted by isis. in august 2014, isis massacred hundreds of yazidi men. and as they stormed the region they took an estimated 3,000 women and children captive. (horns honking, men shouting) thousands of other yazidis who survived the isis rampage fled to the nearby sinjar mountain, where they remained stranded for weeks. (people conversing) >> narrator: khalil's whole village vanished. >> (translated): all the women from that house have been taken.
10:04 pm
all the women from here are in the hands of isis. this house, that house, they took everyone from these houses. they only left one person behind: an old man who'd had a stroke. isis left him for dead. >> narrator: khalil, his wife and daughter had moved out before isis overran the town. >> narrator: isis believes yazidi women can be enslaved under their interpretation of islam.
10:05 pm
>> (translated): this video was shot by an isis fighter. they're in their compound buying and selling girls. (video playing) it's devastating. >> narrator: in the video, the men refer to yazidi women as "sabya." >> narrator: it means "slaves captured in war."
10:06 pm
(video playing) >> (translated): one of our yazidi girls fled from being held by this guy. this is him. she is back home now but she was held by him. this bastard. (video playing) >> narrator: before isis attacked his village, khalil was a lawyer. >> ah! (laughs) >> narrator: but now he runs a secret network of contacts inside isis territory that helps captive women escape through an underground railroad. >> (translated): it can take a whole month to rescue one family. it's very difficult. they are being raped and mistreated on a daily basis. they are calling, crying. they are asking us to rescue them, telling us they can't cope any longer. it's very painful. there's no one else they can ask for help, because their family is either taken or killed.
10:07 pm
>> narrator: khalil and his team of yazidi men work from his new home in kurdish controlled northern iraq, away from the frontline with isis. his contact information is spreading throughout isis territory, and enslaved women call him on cell phones they've managed to hide from their captors. >> narrator: he says they get dozens of calls a week from women asking for help. >> narrator: medina and her two children have been held for seven months and moved from town to town. even isis fighters now know about khalil's network. he receives a message from one of them, a tunisian fighter looking to sell medina back to her family.
10:08 pm
>> narrator: khalil and his team say they don't pay ransoms directly to isis, but they do give money to their contacts who help the women escape. >> narrator: medina and her daughters have tried to escape before, but didn't make it out. her family wants khalil to help them try again.
10:09 pm
>> narrator: with time running out, khalil speaks to his contact to see if it's safe enough to pick up the women from outside their captor's house. >> (translated): i don't say i rescue the women. escaping their captors is down to their cleverness.
10:10 pm
they help us and we help them, through cell phones and middlemen. (thunder rumbling) >> narrator: abu shuja works with khalil. he'll be going to meet medina's family if they're able to make it safely out of captivity. >> (translated): i haven't slept for three days since i lost my friend on a mission. isis set up an ambush for us and we fell into their trap. but he got killed in a dignified way, fighting back. we know when we do this operation it's dangerous sometimes even deadly. (phone ringing) >> hello?
10:11 pm
>> narrator: the rescue operation begins. khalil's contact tells the family to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night and meet him in a car waiting outside. the contact will then guide them out of isis territory through a series of safe houses along the border of turkey and iraq. abu shuja heads toward the border to meet them, hoping that this time, they make it.
10:12 pm
>> narrator: after two hours the contact calls abu shuja, saying they've arrived. >> narrator: the women and children snuck out while their captor was asleep. >> (crying)
10:13 pm
>> narrator: medina's two daughters are nine and ten the age when isis says girls can be forced into marriage. the girls haven't seen their family in seven months. >> (crying) >> (crying)
10:14 pm
>> narrator: the fighting in syria and iraq has created the largest refugee crisis since the second world war and the yazidis have been particularly affected, with nearly 200,000 forced from their homes. they now live in vast camps in northern iraq, but many of the women and children are still held by isis. for centuries, yazidis have been persecuted by sunni muslims because of their religious beliefs. isis sees them as devil-worshipping pagans who must be cleansed to turn iraq into a "pure islamic state." khalil spends much of his time visiting the camps, spreading the word about his network.
10:15 pm
>> (crying) >> (translated): until now no one has seriously said that we're going to rescue these people, not even the government. imagine if one of your journalists were captured by them. you would do anything to help them.
10:16 pm
>> narrator: aeida was among the earliest yazidi women to escape from isis. she is 21 and was abducted with her two children near sinjar mountain last summer. >> (translated): i dream of isis attacking us and i run away. sometimes i see them arresting me. some nights, i can't sleep until the early morning hours because of the nightmares.
10:17 pm
>> narrator: after they overran the yazidi towns and villages in northern iraq, isis turned homes into prisons for captured women. >> (translated): i wish i could forget that building. we were around 35 girls and three women. i was only 21, but i was the oldest. they were coming and taking girls from this building. we had one guard who was forcing a nine-year-old girl. he was forcing her to go with him into the bathroom. i couldn't take it, and i had a fight with the guard. the guard said, "i'll kill you," and i said, "i don't mind dying for her, don't take the girl." >> were they also raping the nine-year-old? >> (translated): of course.
10:18 pm
he told me, "it's okay in our religion to take a nine-year-old girl." i said, "don't tell me this." i said, "i don't want to hear it. i don't want your religion." >> narrator: the isis fighter told aeida it was legitimate to marry girls as young as nine. >> (translated): i tried my best, but they just took her and it was really sad. they drugged her. (coughing) (crying)
10:19 pm
>> narrator: khalil is building a database of all the yazidi women who've escaped isis and all the women who are still held, along with their locations. >> (translated): i have to find out where they're holding the yazidi girls. we know where most of them are being held. we're even in contact with some of them. when they tell me their stories, i find it hard to believe.
10:20 pm
sometimes, i cry as they tell me their stories. from what i've been told, four out of five of them have been raped. >> narrator: despite what the women are going through, khalil must wait for his contacts inside to tell him when it's safe to attempt a rescue. (engine revving) >> narrator: across the border in turkey, there's another cell working against isis. it's led by abu mohammed a 26-year-old syrian. rather than smuggling out women, he smuggles out footage shot by him and his network of activists
10:21 pm
who are trying to document life in isis-held areas in syria. abu mohammed still travels back across the border to secretly film isis, so we are protecting his identity. here, his team covertly film themselves trying to enter isis's self-proclaimed capital the syrian city of raqqa. >> (translated): we always face problems. most of the time, we travel with fake ids and use different names. we always try to disguise ourselves. i'll shave my beard and grow my hair. i'll wear clothes like theirs so they won't suspect me. >> narrator: abu mohammed has been told isis is actively searching for his team.
10:22 pm
>> (translated): of course it's frightening. you could be killed at any moment. >> narrator: one of the group's founders, abu mohammed's friend, moataz, was captured by isis. they discovered videos on his phone, which gave away his link
10:23 pm
to the activists. >> (translated): last march, my friend tried to leave raqqa. he was caught at the checkpoint. after interrogation and torture, they discovered he was working with us. he was a university student, 22 years old. >> narrator: moataz was tried and found guilty of betraying islam. >> (man shouting) (gunshots) >> (translated): the danger is always there. when we decided to do this work, of course we knew the consequences. at the end of the day, it's our duty to get the real picture of life in raqqa out to the world. i filmed this.
10:24 pm
>> narrator: isis claims they're returning to a pure version of islam. armed isis fighters patrol the streets. trucks announce their edicts. >> (translated): this is their list of things that offend islam. >> narrator: isis draws its punishments from medieval islam. the hands of accused thieves are chopped off, and men suspected of being gay have been thrown from the top of buildings. isis uses violence to instill fear among local residents to ensure they obey its rules. women are expected to wear two black gowns to hide their body shape, black gloves, and three veils so that their eyes can't
10:25 pm
be seen in direct sunlight. it's among the strictest dress codes for women in the muslim world. >> (translated): i started feeling that there wasn't any color in the city, only black and darkness. >> narrator: last year, an undercover journalist secretly filmed herself being approached by isis fighters >> narrator: despite imposing such restrictions on women... ...increasingly in syria radical jihadist groups are recruiting women to fight and fulfill their vision of an islamic state.
10:26 pm
(women shouting) (gunshot) >> (chanting): allahu akbar! >> narrator: to enforce their rules in raqqa, isis created a special all-female police force called the al-khansaa brigade. we met one woman who said she'd been a member. she goes by the name of umm obaid. >> (translated): we were responsible for enforcing women's clothing rules. i remember one woman walking with her husband, wearing a gown with images on it. the first thing we did was take her and whip her. then we took her clothes and replaced them with clothes required by sharia law. then we took the husband's money to pay for the clothes. then we whipped him too.
10:27 pm
i felt women were doing the wrong thing, so we had to enforce the law, and i believed in what i was doing. >> (translated): yes, i do. >> narrator: since isis captured raqqa in 2013, thousands of muslim women have fled across the border to turkey. >> (translated): raqqa used to be a peace-loving and beautiful city full of good people. we had mixed schools and universities. there was no problem with normal relations between boys and girls. it's now the capital of terror in the world. >> narrator: raqqa was home to
10:28 pm
many educated women, like moona. she tried to resist the oppression and bring isis's abuses to the world's attention. in this isis video, a young woman in syria stands accused of adultery. >> narrator: her father has been brought to witness her sentence.
10:29 pm
>> narrator: the woman's father joins in. >> (translated): they stoned the woman, but not the man who committed adultery. so i started posting on facebook about the way they treated people. i focused on human rights issues, particularly with women. i was working against them. >> narrator: moona's criticisms brought her to the attention of isis. >> (translated): one night at home around 8:00, there was a knock on the door.
10:30 pm
all of a sudden, a female wearing black appeared. she was with isis, the al-khansaa brigade. she came in with three men also in black. they fired a warning shot in the room and said they'd cut my throat if i didn't hand over the laptop. >> narrator: in the end, the isis fighters took the laptop but left moona unharmed, and she escaped to turkey that night. >> (translated): i hate them. i hate them very much. i really hate them. >> narrator: while locals like moona were driven from their home, thousands of foreign fighters have flooded into syria, attracted by a life of islamic purity, and also war and adventure.
10:31 pm
>> narrator: abu mohammed's undercover cameras capture a conversation in an internet café with a fighter who'd come to raqqa from europe. >> narrator: many of the fighters are still in their teens and early 20s. >> narrator: even the foreign fighters adopt isis's attitude toward yazidis.
10:32 pm
>> narrator: many of the yazidis forced out of their homes by isis have fled to the northern iraqi town of dohuk. khalil now lives here with his wife and five-year-old daughter. >> (laughs) (translated): i can't imagine not seeing my daughter two or three times a day to talk to her, hug her. now there are hundreds of children like mine who've been taken. >> narrator: since they began last september, khalil's team has helped rescue more than 100 women and children. but it's not without its costs. three of his men have been killed during attempted rescues.
10:33 pm
>> (translated): we have two or three operations planned right now. we're a do-it-yourself operation and we have to keep going. (rain pattering) >> narrator: unknown to the outside world, the reputation of khalil's network is growing among the yazidi refugees. more and more with missing relatives are coming to him for help. >> narrator: khalil has come to see faisal. he says all his female relatives are held by isis-- 26 including his mother, masri. she called him from a cell phone she had hidden in a baby's diaper.
10:34 pm
>> narrator: faisal must now wait to see if khalil can find someone to help so many people escape all at once. khalil first gathers information from another girl who escaped.
10:35 pm
10:36 pm
>> narrator: khalil then calls faisal to find out if the family is ready to go. >> narrator: faisal's family is being held 70 miles away in the isis stronghold of tal afar, in northern iraq.
10:37 pm
>> how long have you got to rescue these girls? >> (translated): we are trying our best because poor faisal is all alone. he has no one left. all of his relatives are in captivity. (phone rings) >> narrator: it's one of faisal's family. they've made it out of the isis house, but there are even more people than khalil expected.
10:38 pm
>> hello? his family are in a very dangerous situation they can'y go back to the city. if they escape it will be wonderful but for now the're still in isis territory >> narrator: guided by khalil's contact, the escapees have to walk across miles of territory patrolled by isis fighters.
10:39 pm
>> narrator: if all goes well, it will take them two days to walk to safety. amal is 18 and was held by an isis commander named selman and his six bodyguards.
10:40 pm
10:41 pm
>> narrator: nadia says she was held by isis for 110 days. she was moved from house to house in northern iraq. >> narrator: it's been two days since khalil's guide picked up
10:42 pm
faisal's relatives in the isis-controlled town of tal afar. they were expected to cross into safety today, but khalil hasn't heard from the group for 12 hours and decides to drive to the frontline. >> narrator: since the massacre last summer, local yazidi
10:43 pm
fighters have patrolled the area on the lookout for isis. >> narrator: faisal has been on the mountain with the fighters since sunrise waiting for news from his family.
10:44 pm
>> (voice on walkie-talkie) (voice on walkie-talkie) >> (man shouting) >> narrator: faisal has been warned by the yazidi fighters to stay back, but he runs towards the front of the group. >> one. >> narrator: 24 of his relatives have made it out and brought ten
10:45 pm
more captives with them. they say they had been held for eight months in tal afar. >> (crying) >> narrator: some have walked barefoot for three days. faisal's 60-year-old mother has made it.
10:46 pm
>> narrator: as the fighters try to get the family away as quickly as possible, khalil's contact turns around and walks back into isis territory. >> narrator: faisal's relatives are driven to the nearest yazidi shrine to give thanks for their deliverance.
10:47 pm
>> narrator: they say isis forced them to convert to islam, or else be killed. before they do anything else they must go through a ceremony to convert them back into the yazidi faith.
10:48 pm
>> narrator: in april, the yazidis celebrate their new year. thousands gather at their holiest site, the shrine of lalish. this year, many women are dressed in black, a sign of mourning for relatives lost to isis. khalil runs into a girl he helped rescue just two weeks earlier. >> narrator: 18-year-old selwa
10:49 pm
was held for 237 days. he plays her a clip of the moment she was brought to freedom. >> (faint cheering)
10:50 pm
>> narrator: since escaping, faisal's family has been staying in a refugee camp in northern iraq. they can't go home. isis is still in control of their village.
10:51 pm
>> narrator: just six weeks after faisal's family escaped tal afar, there was another attack on yazidis in the area. 300 were reported killed, and hundreds of women were taken deeper into isis territory. >> narrator: faisal's relatives were some of the last to escape. but one of his sisters and a cousin are still being held, along with an estimated 2,500 other yazidis.
10:52 pm
(whirring) >> (translated): we want to give people hope that the isis atrocities will come to an end. isis can probably see us from here. they're only four kilometers away. they can see we're building a new temple, a new foundation. they want to wipe us out. they think there shouldn't be any yazidi symbols left. we'll stay here. they should get the message that we're staying. >> narrator: in late june, two of khalil's men were tricked into an ambush by isis. he says after they were captured, they were stoned to death. >> (translated): even though it's dangerous, we're going to keep going.
10:53 pm
because if one girl escapes, it's a blow to them. but for now, i can't forget there are still so many in captivity. >> next time on frontline, hunting the world's most wanted drug lord. >> we believe the authorities knew exactly where el chapo was and could get him anytime they wanted. >> two filmmakers journey deep inside his sinaloa drug cartel. >> we have come to distrust everything we are told about the war on drugs. >> "the legend of shorty." >> go to for more from the filmmakers about the challenges of reporting this story. and watch a special series of facebook first stories about the women fighting for isis and about the mission to
10:54 pm
rescue women from isis. then, connect to the frontline community on facebook, twitter and our new tumblr page. and if stories like this matter to you, then sign up for our newsletter at >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support for frontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional support is provided by the park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. at the wyncote foundation. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from
10:55 pm
jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen, through the yuen foundation. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other frontline programs, visit our website at frontline's "escaping isis" is available on dvd. to order, visit or call 1-800-play-pbs. frontline is also available for download on itunes.
10:56 pm
mother: "what are you doing?" possibilities, your day is filled with them. dance instructor: "reach up, energy in the finger tips. collapse." woman: "t.v., play downton abbey." and pbs helps everyone discover theirs. anytime, anywhere. father: "up in the sky, you might see it." pbs, we're with you, for life.
10:57 pm
10:58 pm
10:59 pm
11:00 pm
riley: television has become the new film with writing production values, and even superstar talent that rivals anything you'll find at the multiplex. odenkirk: it's a new era of tv. riley: on this episode of variety studio "actors on actors," you'll listen in on intimate conversations between some of the most talented people working on the small screen. it's exactly what i was dreaming about. yeah! riley: get ready for chats between tv veterans julia louis-dreyfus and jeffrey tambor powerhouse women taraji p. henson and queen latifah, royal academy of dramatic art alums maggie gyllenhaal and liev schreiber... schreiber: i was completely riveted by this show. riley: respected mavericks jessica lange and taylor schilling and leading men bob odenkirk and michael sheen. welcome to variety studio "actors on actors." i'm jenelle riley. today's tv stars come into our homes so frequently,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on