Four Yazidi children, who were kidnapped from their homes in Sinjar, Iraq in 2014, were liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Baghouz, Syria.
After the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched operations to liberate the city of Baghouz, the last ISIS-held enclave, thousands of kidnapped civilians were able to escape as part of the evacuation period that the SDF initiated. Amongst these escaping civilians, thousands of Yazidi women and children were finally able to escape the militant group, five years after they were kidnapped.
In 2014, ISIS attacked many Yazidi villages in Nineveh Province, executed the men, and took the women and children as slaves. Young children were brainwashed and forced to join the militant group’s “Cubs of the Caliphate,” while women were forced into sexual slavery.
After the militant group was defeated in Iraq in December 2017, families of Yazidis who were taken began searching for the fate of their loved ones. However, many families remained without any information of where their loved ones were.
However, with the operations to liberate Syria ongoing, families began to receive news of their kidnapped children being held hostage in the militant group’s last enclave.
During the first weeks of the operations, dozens of Yazidi women were able to escape the militant group and go towards the SDF. After undergoing investigation, they were transferred to Iraq where the General Directorate of Ezidi Affairs in the Kurdistan Region, was able to identify them and return them to their families.
Recently, four young kids evacuated Baghouz, and are now waiting to be reunited with their families.
According to the children, the militant group forced them to convert to Islam and join ISIS’ youth group.
“I am a Yazidi, ISIS militants brought me with all my family to the so-called Islamic state,” said Aymen, one of the four children. “They slaughtered and killed anyone who did not convert to become Muslim.”
Other children who escaped ISIS shared similar stories. Following their abductions, many of the children were forced to convert and join the militant group. As operations against the militant group were launched in Iraq and Syria, they were transferred to different cities. “[ISIS] took us to Mosul, then to Tal Afar, then to Jafha, and then to Sousse until we reached Baghuz [a town in eastern Syria],” said Milad Hussein, a young Yazidi man who was freed last week. Milad and his friends were then taken back to their villages where they were welcomed by their families, who finally found their child.
Unfortunately, not all Yazidis were able to live to tell the tale.
Last week, the SDF discovered a mass grave with at least 50 Yazidi women buried inside. Yazidi activists say that they estimate that there are hundreds of Yazidis still trapped in the city. They fear that they will be used as ISIS’ human shields, following the evacuation of ISIS militant’s wives and children.
With so much pain inflicted on them by the militant group, the Yazidi population in Iraq are in dire need of help.