In Kurdish-protected and internationally-organized refugee camps throughout Iraq and Syria, Christians, Yazidis, and Muslim Kurds live a tentative life in which many have lost their entire families and have no sense of when they will be able to return to a life of normalcy.
Speaking to the UK’s Daily Mail, a number of refugees living in various centers across Iraq told stories and shared photos of the family they had either never seen again or watched die before their eyes. “My older brother, my father, my mother, my wife and even my two kids were killed. All I have left of them is just one picture on my mobile phone,” says one man, Tahysn, whose two sons were aged three and four when killed.
A Yazidi grandmother identified as Rezal, who escaped Mount Sinjar, managed to escape the wrath of the Islamic State, but watched children die on the mountain of thirst and heat. “When we left Sinjar, the kids suffered a lot… Many men from our village died, many women have been captured. I saw some kids dying because of the heat,” she said. “Daesh [the local name for ISIS based on their Arabic acronym]… even cut the throats of the babies,” she said.
The camps are also full of extremely traumatized children, many orphans. The Daily Mail describes the children as “heartbreakingly matter-of-fact” when describing watching their parents die. One child, a boy wielding a toy gun, told the reporters that his life’s mission now was to defeat ISIS. “When I grow up, I will beat the Daesh…I will kill them all,” he says. “I want the Daesh to live through what we suffered because of them.”
The Daily Mail‘s latest report, based on refugee camp experiences, is only one facet of the unspeakable tragedy of those standing in the Islamic State’s way as they force their “caliphate” upon the Middle East. While reported on heavily since their takeover of Mosul and the northern areas of Nineveh, it can never go underreported that, while ISIS tends to kill Yazidi men quickly, they more often than not abduct the women for use as sex slaves. In one video showing the slave trade itself, ISIS jihadists can be seen inspecting the teeth of women and treating them as chattel, meant to take abuse.
Iraqi doctors forced to work for the Islamic State often see female Yazidi patients, as many women attempt to stop eating to kill themselves as an escape from the cycle of rape and beatings into which they are trapped. Doctors say the stories vary from women raped as many as 30 times a day to those taken as wives by one jihadist in particular and beaten into subjugation.