Some Yazidi boys who have been subjected to Islamic State indoctrination are hesitating to escape the jihadist group’s training camps when given the chance, Reuters reports.
“When nine-year-old Murad got the chance to flee from Islamic State — the group that repeatedly raped his mother and slaughtered or enslaved thousands from his Yazidi minority — he hesitated,” notes the report.
“So powerful was the indoctrination during his 20-month captivity in Iraq and Syria that the boy told his mother he wanted to stay at the camp where Islamic State had trained him to kill ‘infidels’, including his own people,” it adds.
Reuters spoke to one of the boys, identified only as Murad, and his mother after they escaped captivity by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Murad’s mother reportedly said she struggled to convince her son, who was being prepared for battle along other Yazidi boys, to flee the ISIS training camp where he was being held along with his mother and little brother.
“My son’s brain was changed and most of the kids were saying to their families ‘Go, we will stay’,” the mother told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Until the last moment before we left, my son was saying ‘I will not come with you’.”
“Yazidi boys appear to be part of broader efforts by Islamic State to create a new generation of fighters loyal to the group’s ideology and inured to its extreme violence,” notes Reuters. “The training often leaves them scarred, even after returning home.”
Murad, his brother, and mother were taken hostage by ISIS when the jihadist group seized their village near the Yazidi Iraqi town of Sinjar in August 2014.
ISIS massacred, raped, and enslaved thousands of Yazidis during that offensive. Members of the Yazidi minority group are considered to be devil-worshippers by the jihadist group.
The United States, which launched airstrikes against ISIS in an effort to save the Yazidis, has determined that the attacks on the minority group amount to genocide.
Many Yazidis have been unable to return to their homeland in and around Sinjar due to the ongoing ISIS threat and the damage to the infrastructure caused by the airstrikes.
“More than a third of the 5,000 Yazidis captured in 2014 have escaped or been smuggled out, but activists say hundreds of boys are still held,” reports Reuters.
“Dressed in a long brown skirt and matching headscarf, the mother described how Murad had finally agreed to escape, allowing people smugglers to spirit the family by a convoluted route to a refugee camp near the northern Iraqi city of Duhok where they are living now,” it adds.
The Yazidi boys were being trained to fight the “infidels,” which Murad’s mother described as Shiite Muslims, the peshmerga forces of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the armed wing of Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“They were teaching the children how to fight and go to war to battle the infidels,” Murad’s mother told Reuters.
The boys were reportedly being dressed in the long robes worn by ISIS members and trained to use guns and knives.
“They were assessing them for how well they had learned to fight. Daesh [ISIS] then showed the families videos of killing. Among them they saw their sons also taking part,” said the mother.
“Islamic State also forced Murad to pray, study the Koran and sit through extremist religious lessons, according to his mother, who said she had been beaten as well as raped by at least 14 men,” reports Reuters.
Other Yazidi boys were subjected to similar treatment.
“They told us, ‘You are Yazidis and you are infidels. We want to convert you to the true religion so you can go to heaven’,” a 16-year-old Yazidi boy told Reuters on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution against his brother and father still held by ISIS.
“Most Yazidis have had to spend small fortunes on smugglers’ costs to rescue loved ones — Murad’s family raised $24,000 to get the three home,” notes Reuters.