‘War crime’: ISIS tortured Kurdish child hostages
The children, aged 14 to 16, were abducted by the Sunni Muslim militants on May 29 as they travelled home to the border town on Kobani after taking school exams in the city of Aleppo.
Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) released around 100 girls within a few hours, but held onto 153 boys, which they kept in a school in Manbij, 55 kilometers southwest of Kobani.
Around 50 of the boys either escaped or were released between June and September, with the final 25 let go on October 29.
Four boys who were released in late September and who escaped into Turkey were interviewed by Human Rights Watch and told the story of their ordeal.
The teenagers were divided into eight groups, each with a different classroom where they slept. Each child was given three blankets, was fed twice a day and was allowed to have a bath once every two weeks.
According to the boys, Islamic State guards beat any of the children who tried to escape, did poorly in the mandatory religious lessons or did anything else regarded as misbehaving. Especially nasty treatment was reserved for boys whose parents belonged to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is responsible for defending Kobani from the Islamic State onslaught.
“It was really those whose families were close to the YPG who suffered most. They [ISIS] told them to give them the addresses of their families, cousins, Uncles, saying ‘When we go to Kobani we will get them and cut them up.’ They saw the YPG as kafir [unbelievers],” said one of the boys, aged 15.
Another lad was strung up in a hoist with his hands tied behind his back and a foot tied to his hands for saying “Oh, mother!” when he was busted in another boys room. He was told by his jihadist captors that he should have called out to God and not his mom.
The kids were forced to pray five times a day and if they didn’t learn the Koran to their captor’s satisfaction then they got a beating.
"They sometimes found excuses to beat us for no reason ... They made us learn verses of the Koran and beat those who didn't manage to learn them. Those who didn't conform to the program were beaten. They beat us with a green hose or a thick cable with wire running through it. They also beat the soles of our feet," one of the boys told the rights group.
The children said their guards were Syrian Arabs, as well as from Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, but the Syrians were the most violent and dished out the worst beatings.
When finally they were released with 150 Syrian pounds ($1) and a DVD of religious material, all the boys were told was that their religious instruction had come to end.
In addition to these boys who have now been released, Islamic State has also seized other children as well as countless adults from Kurdish villages near Kobani and is holding some of them hostage in the hope of bargaining them for Islamic State fighters who are being held by the YPG.
Human Rights Watch has said that hostage taking like this is considered a war crime.
“Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, children have suffered the horrors of detention and torture, first by the Assad government and now by ISIS. This evidence of torture and abuse of children by ISIS underlines why no one should support their criminal enterprise,” said Fred Abrahams, special advisor for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch.