On Aug. 3, 2014, ISIS militants swept into the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, home to the majority of the world's Yazidis. They rounded up the Yazidis into three groups: young boys who were to be indoctrinated as future fighters for ISIS, older males who were massacred and women and girls who were sold into slavery. Tens of thousands fled, many to Mount Sinjar, where the militants surrounded them in the scorching summer heat. The U.S., Iraq, Britain, France and Australia flew in water and other supplies and U.S, airstrikes kept ISIS at bay but many Yazidis died before they could be rescued.
Searching for Sabir
Sabir was 15 days old when he and his family were kidnapped from Sinjar. They were taken to Talafar where they remained in captivity until the following year.
As the Peshmerga began to close in, the ISIS militants escaped to Syria, taking some of the children with them. Those who were too young to be used as sex slaves or trained as fighters were given to local Turkmen families or sold for ransom.
On June 30th 2017, a group of Yazidi and Shia children were found by Iraqi forces at a clinic in Mosul where they were being used as human shields. They were taken to the Centre for Unaccompanied children in Hamam al Alil where their images were posted online by the local police.
Sabir's family saw his photo on Facebook but by the time they arrived at the centre to claim him, he had disappeared. It took two years but we eventually discovered that the staff had handed him over to a man who claimed to be his father. We have traced the man and worked with Yazda's lawyers to try and convince the Iraqi Government to help but he has refused to have a DNA test.
Over 1,000 children are still missing. The majority are Yazidis, but there are also children from the Christian and Shia community. Some have been given new identities and are too young to remember where they came from. Others were abandoned in state homes where no one knows who they are. There needs to be a concerted effort by the Iraqi Government and the International Community in order to find these children and help to reunite them with their loved ones.
As Iraqi forces push further into Mosul's old city, hundreds of civilians are being released from so-called Islamic State control.
Reporting by Nafiseh Kohnavard
30 June 2017