Youth Kidnapped by Islamic State Tells His Story
Last June, Islamic State militants kidnapped more than 150 students from the city of Kobani in northern Syria. Many of those kidnapped were ethnic Kurds. The militants released most of the students several months later. But about 20 students remain in captivity.
One of those freed is a 16-year-old named Azad. He now lives in Turkey.
Azad said the militants seized him and the other students as they were returning home. He said the students had just finished taking their secondary school exams in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
"We were scared," Azad said. "They had long beards. They told us 'we will slaughter you, you infidels.' They asked us to pray and to make the ablutions. Some of us did not know how. They hit them and said, ‘Why do you not know the ablutions?'"
Islamic State militants have executed thousands of people. The group has accused its victims of being infidels — in other words, for not following what the militants say is the true religion.
Azad said for three months the group beat the teenagers and threatened to execute them.
"They hit us, and gave us religion lessons. They were taking medicine. Their eyes became red after that. They put bombs on themselves and said we will go to heaven. We cried and said we want to go to our parents. They hit us and said 'why are you crying for your parents? If you become Muslims and return to Kobani, you must kill your parents because they are infidels,'" remembered Azad.
His mother, Berivan, said she and the other mothers appealed for their children's release.
"It was very difficult -- three months of tears and crying. We tried to see them (the Islamic State fighters). We went without the men. But they told us to leave. They said if you don't go now we will kill your children now. We cried and cried," said Berivan.
The militants released most of the children a few weeks ago. They sought to exchange the students for Islamic State fighters who had been captured.
But Azad said he still has bad dreams about the experience.
"Even after we moved to Turkey, I am still afraid. I will always remember one of them. He came at two o'clock in the morning. He had a long beard. He told us 'I will kill you all' and then he left," he said.
Azad passed his exams in Aleppo. He wants to be an engineer. He said he hopes to continue his education in Kobani someday.
I'm Bob Doughty.