One of the 140 Kurdish schoolboys taken in a mass kidnapping last month by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) spoke with CNN Wednesday about what his day-to-day life in captivity entailed.
They forced the 15-year-old boy named Muhammad to watch a video of radical Islamists beheading a man. “This is jihad for the sake of God,” his kidnappers would tell him. Mohammed said he would then wonder aloud, “Does God want me to do Jihad?”
Human rights organizations have said that, since the 140 schoolboys’ kidnapping, they have been brainwashed and forcibly subjected to lectures on the tenets of radical Islamism on a daily basis.
Each day, Muslim religious leaders would wake the boys up for mandatory prayers. The boys would then be transferred over to the ISIS militants, who would lecture them for several hours on the tenets of Islamic Shariah law.
Their next five hours would be spent listening to the ISIS fighters talking about how great the concept of Jihad is. They would then show the young men examples of jihad, which included videos of suicide bombings, beheadings, and executions.
Mohammed said he was warned by the ISIS jihadis on his first day, “If you try to leave, we will cut your heads off.”
The boys were all kidnapped after their convoy was stopped on May 29 by ISIS-friendly fighters. The men then told the boys, “How can you sit with the girls? It is forbidden!” The radicals then forcibly took all the young males in the group back to the ISIS-dominated city of Manbij in northern Syria for their intensive brainwashing procedures. All of the boys but for Mohammed and three others remain hostage as of Thursday.
Mohammed recounted the events that lead to his kidnapping: “We were all so scared. On the way back, we were celebrating that we had finished our tests. We were excited to go home and see our families. We didn’t know why they took us.”
Mohammed said that his fellow classmates created a diversion and ultimately helped him escape and regain his freedom. “I was so happy when I got home. My mother had no idea that I had escaped. I was so excited to see her.” Mohammed said he was now a wanted man by ISIS, and they will kill him if they find him.
A report this week from Human Rights Watch echoed Mohammed’s story: “ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra have targeted children for recruitment by providing military training in school settings or as part of broader education programs run by the groups. Former recruits described how leaders gave children particularly difficult or dangerous tasks and encouraged them to volunteer for suicide attacks.”