Sahar is one of the thousands of children across the region who have had their lives altered for the worse by ISIS. The group is responsible for the most horrific crimes against children. Many were separated from their families and forced to become child soldiers. Others were ruthlessly murdered and maimed, or simply used as cannon fodder and human shields.
As is the case in most conflicts, children in Iraq have been impacted particularly adversely. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that some 1.3 million children have been left homeless as a result of ISIS, making up nearly half of Iraq’s displaced population. Many of these displaced children suffered from mental, physical and health issues.
Under ISIS, children were denied a real education across the major cities in Iraq and Syria. The militants turned many schools into indoctrination camps, where they would instil fear, hatred and violence into children from a young age in order to eventually recruit them into their Cubs of the Caliphate sub-unit of child soldiers. Many children, particularly belonging to Yazidi and Christian minorities, have been forcefully turned into child soldiers. Many of their family members are either dead or displaced.
Sahar tragically lost her eyesight after an ISIS mine blew up in close proximity to her, deforming her face. This incident occurred as she and her family were escaping ISIS-held Hawija. Just as her family thought that they had escaped the horrors of ISIS, they were inflicted with tragedy.
Sahar’s father describes the heartbreaking moment when the incident happened. As they were passing through the mountains to escape from ISIS in Hawija, they entered into a minefield.
“A mine blew up under us and killed my mother and brother, and my daughter lost her eyes, and my arms and legs were injured,” he explained. Despite his disability, he and his wife are on their own to care for the whole family including their blind daughter.