A group of Yazidi women and children were reunited with their families in Iraq today after five years of captivity at the hands of ISIS.
Elated families met their loved ones at a rural truck stop on the road between Sinjar and Dohuk, tossing candy in the air like confetti and hugging and kissing their relatives in emotional scenes that underscored their long ordeal.
Among the arrivals was ten-year-old Dilbar Ali Ravu who was finally reunited with his family after five years in captivity.
His uncle, Jihad Ravu, said Dilbar developed lesions on his face while he was being held in a cell in Tal Afar in the early days of his captivity, after he was abducted.
Ten-year-old Dilbar Ali Ravu, 10, is hugged and kissed by his aunt Dalal Ravu after he was held in captivity for five years by Islamic State
Dilbar is among 18 children, aged 10 to 15, who were finally reunited with their family after years in captivity
The ten-year-old’s uncle, Jihad Ravu, said the young boy had developed lesions on his face while he was being kept in his cell by IS militants
He added Dilbar had not had proper medical treatment since then.
The 18 returning children, aged 10 to 15, appeared weary and at times uneasy with the attention of the media and officials.
With many parents still missing in territory held by Islamic State, few were there to receive their children.
Still, the children could not hide their joy at being hugged and kissed once more by their relatives after the long and traumatic separation.
They included 11 boys that many fear were trained in military camps by IS, though they all denied it.
The young Yazidi boy is greeted by his elated family at a rural truck stop on the road between Sinjar and Dohuk
An elated relative kisses the cheek of a Yazidi survivor boy after he is released by IS militants
A Yazidi woman stands for a picture with her family at a rural truck stop after years in captivity
Only days since escaping the extremist group, the children were struggling to come to terms with their ordeal.
Milad Hussein Khalaf, 13, who was separated from his family in 2014 by militants, said: ‘They treated us well.’
He said his IS family put him in a religious school and he had learned to recite passages from the Quran which he studied every day.
Khalaf’s older cousin, Siri Ali, used a video chat app on her phone so her sisters in Canada could see him arrive.
The 18 returning children stand with their relatives at the road between Sinjar and Dohuk after finally escaping the extremist group
A young boy is greeted is escorted by his family on March 2 after being separated from his family for five years
A Yazidi women stands with her family after five years in captivity. Over the last few days thousands of civilians have emerged from the last speck of territory held by Islamic State
About 3,000 Yazidis are still missing after IS militants stormed their communities in the Sinjar region in northwest Iraq in 2014, and enslaved, raped and killed thousands of worshippers of the esoteric faith.
The extremist group considers the Kurdish-speaking religious minority to be heretics.
The group of three Yazidi women and 18 children who reunited with their families today are among thousands of civilians who emerged in the last few days from the last speck of territory held by the Islamic State group in the village of Baghouz, in eastern Syria.
They crossed into Iraq from Syria on Friday, and were picked up by their families on Saturday.
Susan Fahmy, a coordinator for the NGO Khalsa Aid, said she is certain all the boys were sent to training and that they need years of rehabilitation.
She said some Yazidi boys have been caught communicating with IS a year after they returned.
She also said women are being pressured to give up their children fathered by IS men, and was alarmed that one of the women arrived without her kids.
Hosni Murad, the brother of Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy on behalf of victims of wartime sexual violence, was there to welcome home his ten-year-old nephew, Khashman Samir.
Samir’s four siblings and his parents were all killed by IS, said Murad.
‘They were all victims of Daesh,’ he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. ‘He’s the first and the last one to return from the family.’
Murad said he is certain his nephew, and all the boys, were given military training by IS, and he believes many young men are returning to the community harboring sympathies for the extremists.
‘Yes, in truth, we’re afraid they’ll do something. Their mindset is Daesh. I mean it’s been five years they’ve been training with them.’
Murad said another nephew of his, aged 16, spurned his pleas to come home, choosing to stay with IS until the end.
‘He replied: `You are all infidels,” Murad said, recalling the boy’s response. He hasn’t heard from him in months.