A young Yazidi boy captured as a toddler by ISIS has been returned to his family, but has rarely spoken and did not know his name until a few days ago. Another, named Marwan, is only eleven years old. He was captured in 2014 and used alternately as both a servant and a soldier. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Office of Kidnapped Rescues estimates that over 3,000 people continue to be held in captivity by ISIS. Many of these victims belong to religious minority groups and provide ISIS with a prospering slave trade. While the families of these boys rejoiced at their release, their sadness continues as they wonder about the fate of other friends and family members captured by ISIS.
10/20/2017 Iraq (CNN) – A lonely four-year-old stands on a patch of waste ground that passes for a football field. This is where he plays, silent and alone. After years in ISIS slavery, Lazem is finally safe. But he has no one to talk to and, until a few days ago, didn’t even know his own name.
A member of the Iraqi religious minority, the Yazidis, Lazem was stolen from his family as a toddler when ISIS fighters overran northern Iraq’s Sinjar province in August 2014, pillaging towns and villages. Thousands of Yazidi men were killed at the terror group’s hands; women and children from the community were captured and sold.
Three years on, ISIS’ slave trade continues to prosper, even as the extremist group’s power and influence wane. ISIS has been largely driven out of its former Syrian stronghold, Raqqa, in recent days — only sleeper cells are thought to remain in the city.
According to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Office of Kidnapped Rescues, more than 3,000 people — most of them women and children — are still being held by the terror group.
Many of those who manage to flee their ISIS kidnappers find themselves held to ransom, at the mercy of unscrupulous smugglers. For this reason, only half of Yazidi captives have been rescued, according to the KRG.
Reunited with his father, Qassem Abdu Ali, at the Rwanga community camp, home to thousands of Yazidis who fled ISIS’ incursion into Sinjar, Lazem sits quietly behind the weather-beaten figure; ten days since they were reconciled, he has not yet managed to say a word to his father.
Separated from those who loved him, Lazem grew up learning Turkmen and Turkish, the languages of his ISIS militant captors, rather than his native Kurmanji, the Kurdish dialect spoken by his community.
First sent to the ISIS stronghold of Tal Afar, Lazem ended up in Turkey, well outside ISIS territory. Little is known about how he got there. Even in Turkish, he is reticent, so few details of his time in captivity are clear.
Bought initially by the wife of an ISIS commander who had no son of her own, Lazem is thought to have worked as a servant. He says his first “owner” was nice, but refuses to talk about the second.
He looks up tenderly at those who try to speak to him, constantly tugging at a strand of hair concealing a scar on his forehead, but where it came from, he won’t say.
They called him “Ghulam” (boy), authorities charged with rescuing Lazem tell CNN. Until he was brought back to his community last week, he thought “Boy” was his name.