Young Syrian tells how he survived ‘worst-case scenario’ of kidnap and torture by Islamic State

ICC Note: Meghrik was taken off a bus in Syria and placed before an ISIS judge. The verdict was death because he had a Christian name, though religion was nothing to him. When placed in his grave with a gun to his head, Meghrik agreed to convert. The next few days he was tortured by ISIS prison guards. Miraculously, Meghrik was released by his captors. This experience forced him to recognize the hand of God on his life changing everything.

02/10/2017 Syria (WWM): Meghrik* was on a bus when it happened.

He was travelling from Aleppo to Al-Qamishli in the north east of Syria, a seven-hour journey even before the war started. Now war means there are many checkpoints to stall progress on the 430km trip.

After a few hours, they approached yet another checkpoint. Drawing closer, the travellers could see the black and white flag of Islamic State (IS) blowing in the breeze. In the distance they could just see the city of Raqqa, where IS still has its Syrian headquarters.

The driver slowed down and stopped when an IS fighter, dressed all in black, raised his hand.

Three fighters got on. Meghrik, sitting at the back, watched as they began checking other passengers’ IDs. He started to sweat and took a deep breath to calm himself down.

A fighter stopped next to him. “Are you a Christian?” he asked.

Meghrik answered “no”. He was raised by Christian parents and the family name was on his ID card, but he didn’t believe in God anymore; he thought Christianity was ridiculous.

“You’re lying. Your name says you’re a Christian. Come with me,” the fighter said.

They took off Meghrik’s blindfold and he looked into the hole with horror. They pushed him in and then he heard the men loading their weapons. Tears ran down his cheeks and he felt completely helpless.

Seconds passed but there was no shot. Then one of the soldiers broke the silence.

“You can live if you convert to Islam,” he shouted.

Ten days after he was kidnapped Meghrik walked out of the IS prison holding a document that gave him the right to pass through IS checkpoints and return home to his parents.

Asked why he felt he wasn’t killed, Meghrik says it was an answer to prayer, even though he hadn’t felt able to accept the existence of God.

“The moment they threw me in the hole to kill me, I said to God, ‘If you exist, please give me a chance to get to know you.’” He continued to pray for his release even though he was later forced to convert to Islam and then tortured. “God changed the heart of the judge and he set me free,” he said.

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