Civilians recount the traumatic moments they were used as human shields by ISIS

As the battle for Mosul rages on, one of ISIS’ most sinister tactics has been its use of human shields. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were snatched from their homes and forced into the centre of Mosul as the battle began to intensify.

“Human shields are a way for ISIS to ensure immunity from fire”, said the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani. She added that “ISIS’ depraved, cowardly strategy is to try to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military action, essentially using tens of thousands of men, women and children as human shields.”

Within the first month of the operations, the United Nations estimated that ISIS had abducted nearly 8,000 families from districts surrounding Mosul. Thousands of men, women and children were forced to walk barefoot alongside the group’s fighters as they retreated toward Mosul.

A local shepherd recounts the way families were taken: “The army advanced towards our area in Albu Saif, then ISIS fighters started coming towards an area we call ‘al-Kharba’ we are in al-Sayramoun. Later on, they advanced towards our area and began entering houses that had families inside.”