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Hanan and Wissam

2015 (Narrative date)

ISIS has singled out the Yezidi minority, notably its women and children, for particularly brutal treatment. In August 2014, ISIS fighters abducted hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yezidi men, women and children who were fleeing the IS takeover from the Sinjar region, in the north-west of the country. Hundreds of the men were killed and others were forced to convert to Islam under threat of death. Younger women and girls, some as young as 12, were separated from their parents and older relatives and sold, given as gifts or forced to marry ISIS fighters and supporters.

Hanan and her son Wissam were taken by ISIS soldiers and sold first to an Algerian man, and then to a Syrian man. At five years old Wissam was taught to speak Arabic, read the Koran and trained in combat. If Hanan tried to stop the indoctrination of her son, she was subjected to physical beatings and threats to take him away.  They were finally able to escape when Hanan told fighters she was going to call her cousin but instead called her husband who paid for his wife and son’s freedom.

I was sold to an Algerian man for $4,500. And he sold me to a Syrian for over $5,000.

I didn’t want them to separate me and my son but they took him everywhere, so I wouldn’t escape. They said “We’ll teach him to shoot and teach him Islam.” They brainwashed him. He learned to cock a gun and aim at his friends, threatening to kill them. The gun wasn’t loaded, or he’d have shot them. They kept telling him, “You serve the ‘Islamic State’. There’s only one true state.”


He was changing. They wouldn’t let me cut his hair. They told him, “Grow your hair and when you’re older you’ll grow a beard.” They took him to their HQ to teach him Arabic. When he came back, he didn’t speak Kurdish anymore. I was very upset. They said they liked my son.


I couldn’t do anything. If I told them not to behave like them, he’d cry and run to them.

They beat me with a cable. They’d fold a long cable and beat me with it. My while body was covered in blood. I had bruises everywhere. Look at this, I have bruises like that, all over my body.  

I had a phone number. I didn’t tell them it was my husband’s. I said it was my cousin. My husband asked them to sell me to hum He said he’d pay a hefty sum. $20,000. He paid for me and saved me.

I wept tears of joy. We hadn’t seen each other for so long! Nine months.

Now he’s [Wissam] misbehaving. We can’t control him. He’s started reading the Koran in the morning when he wakes up. He says, “Allahu Akbar! Glory to the Islamic State!” I’ll make him forget, I don’t want to scare him. He’s just a child, we must be kind to him.

I’ll give him 1,000 dinars to buy himself something from the shop. I don’t want him to speak Arabic, and he’s already stopped. Another month like this and I think he’ll forget.

We got back 15 days ago, he’s already forgotten some things.


They [ISIS] gave us to other people. It was a house. A farm. There were only men there. They were from Syria. They’d just arrived from Syria.

[to the camera crew]

If you don’t come quickly we’ll give you to ISIS. They’ll beat you up. They’ll teach you how to pray.

They beat us in Syria. They beat me. They tied me up and put me on top of a tank. I don’t know why.

Kamo didn’t let them [teach us to read the Karan]. He was our relative, he was with them. He didn’t let me read the Karan.

[you said ISIS cut off his head?] Yes. They stepped on his head.

I cut its [a rabbit’s] head off. Daddy, bring me the gun. Mum I’m going to shot for real. Should I shoot?

There, I’ll put one pillow on top of another. This is what they did with tyres. ISIS did it like this. If I’d shot, there’d be none of you left. And there’d be no one left in the back, either. Got it? Now I’ll kill them all. I’ll shoot at your feet.


The DShK is this big machine gun. It’s mounted on a car.


There was a kind of wheel. You could move it up and aim in the air to shoot down planes.




As told to documentary makers at Russia Today.