Yazidi women who were kidnapped by Islamist extremist group, ISIS and imprisoned as sex slaves, are undergoing surgery to "restore their virginity". They fear they will shunned by future husbands if they are not virgins.

Hundreds of girls were kidnapped as the militants swept through Sinjar last year, they have now managed to escape. Sadly though an unknown number still remain as slaves to the whims of the men holding them.

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Those who managed to return home safely, now face the burden of being ostracised by their community and even their family for being raped.

Rothna Begum, a women's rights expert for the Middle East, from Human Rights Watch, told The Independent , that routine virginity tests are done on women to document the atrocities.

Even women who were abducted but not raped, must go through this invasive procedure in order to get "proof" of their virginity.

Victims of this brutality now fear they will be condemned by the communities and will not find husbands. Therefore, they are seeking surgery they believe will restore their virginity by repairing their hymen.

A health official in the Dohuk region of Kurdistan, where many Yazidi girls are said to have taken sanctuary, said, 12 such procedures have already taken place since February.

Ms Begum said, "In the most extreme cases, women and girls were so traumatised by the fact they were no longer virgins that they were insisting on this surgery to feel whole again – they feel they have lost something."

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The procedure called hymenoplasty, takes place under local anaesthetic to "repair" the hymen with dissolvable stitches. It aims to reconstruct the membrane so it can be broken again on the woman's wedding night. In some cultures blood is required as proof of virginity.

Human Rights Watch has requested Kurdish and Iraqi officials to provide the victims with intensive psycho-social care. The women must be taught to realise that even where it is requested, hymenoplasty is only a temporary reprieve from their trauma.

The group is also advocating against the use of "virginity tests", which is based on the existence of the hymen, even though it can break without intercourse.

Virginity in Kurdistan is sacred only for women. Men determine the worth of a woman if she is still a virgin. Even though it is not medically sound, the idea of virginity is so tightly bound to the idea of the hymen breaking.

The brutalities of ISIS

By now it is well known that ISIS has firmly placed itself has the strictest interpretation of Islam. It also has the most brutal forms of punishment for what it considers heretics.

ISIS issued guidelines to its fighters last year attempting to justify the taking of non-Muslim women as sex slaves under Islamic law.

"It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who has not yet reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse,” one passage declared.

All Yazidi girls have been declared as heretics under ISIS's interpretation of Salafism and have been driven from their homes, enslaved and massacred in territories controlled by ISIS.

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Women have been gang raped in public, girls as young as 9 have been enslaved, raped and traded between fighters, as the "spoils of war". A 13-year-old girl who escaped the strong hold by ISIS, claimed she would never get married as she is now "damaged goods".

This is the narrative that is instilled in girls at such a young age. They are deemed worthless if they are not virgins, whether it was consensual or not.

A Human Rights Watch report earlier this year stated that the systematic rape and violence against Yazidi women amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Isis forces have committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yazidi women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director, at Human Rights Watch. “Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated for the unimaginable trauma they endured."

Secret abortions

A prominent religious leader Baba Sheikh, decreed last year that women returning from the stronghold of ISIS should be treated as victims and welcomed back to the community, however, this has not been practised yet.

Most of these women have been traumatised after months of rape and torture, they are ostracised by their families and communities after returning, and some even have to deal with the pressures of pregnancy.

Abortion is illegal in Iraq except in cases where the life of the mother is directly at risk. This means Yazidi girls are forced, either to bear their rapists' child, or, turn to dangerous "back street" doctors .

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Doctors are breaking the law performing these abortions and other surgeries for women, some who are dangerously young to be giving birth.

Human Rights Watch is among the groups campaigning to have terminations made legal for rape victims at risk of suicide or honour based killings.

Around 40,000 people were kidnapped and thousands killed when ISIS fighters attacked the Yazidi village last summer.