Syrian Kurdish children gather around fire early in the morning in a refugee camp at Suruç. File photo
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Islamic State militants in Syria forced children as young as 14 to watch videos of beheadings and beat them with cables during six months of captivity, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The IS militants abducted a group of children on May 29 as they returned to the Syrian city of Kobane after taking school exams in the city of Aleppo. It freed the final 25 hostages on October 29.
Kobane, a predominantly Kurdish city on the Syrian border with Turkey, has been besieged by Islamic State militants for nearly 50 days despite the U.S.-led air strikes.
The abuse of more than 150 children, some held as long as six months, amounted to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said, citing testimony from interviews with four boys among the group.
The children described being forced to pray five times a day and undergoing intense religious instruction, as well as being forced to watch videos of Islamic State in combat and the beheading captives.
“Those who didn’t conform to the program were beaten. They beat us with a green hose or a thick cable with wire running through it. They also beat the soles of our feet,” it quoted one boy as saying.
“They sometimes found excuses to beat us for no reason … They made us learn verses of the Koran and beat those who didn’t manage to learn them.”
The boys said they were given no reason for their release other than that their religious education was now over. The last children to be let go were now seeking shelter in Turkey, the rights group said.
Those from families with members fighting with the Kurdish forces of the Popular Protection Units (YPG), which has been defending Kobane against the IS extremists, were singled out for abuse, the children said.
Their captors, who came from Syria, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, “told them to give them the addresses of their families, cousins, uncles, saying, ‘When we go to Kobane, we will get them and cut them up.’ They saw the YPG as infidels,” a 15-year-old boy told Human Rights Watch.
Other Kurdish children and adults are still in captivity, HRW reported. The Islamic State is also thought to hold 10 Western hostages, including foreign journalists.