TWO years ago, the forces of the so-called Islamic State Group (IS) descended upon the Shingar mountain range in north-western Iraq bordering Syria. Barren and rising up above the surrounding alluvial plains, the range, particularly Mount Shingar itself, has long been revered by populations of humans, forming the backdrop to many of history’s dramas. In the surrounding areas are some of the oldest human settlements that the world has ever known, some dating back many thousands of years.
That August was witness to tragedy. In that month, nearly 6,000 Yazidis had taken refuge on the mountain, which they consider sacred. They were running from the IS, which was bent on slaughtering them. In the eyes of the IS, this population of people, who follow an ancient religion connected to Zoroastrianism, were ‘infidels’. They could be slaughtered, their women and children taken as the spoils of war. That is indeed what happened that August; nearly all the Yazidi men were slaughtered, and the women and children were taken captive. Many of the women were taken as slaves, sold and exchanged between IS fighters who saw themselves entitled to use them as however they wished.
Within this tragedy lies another one. According to new research collected and published by the United Nations, nearly 33 per cent of the people captured on the mountain were children. These children were taken into IS captivity soon after to become future fighters or propaganda material. In the latter case, they could be used as props in videos and IS magazines, typifying the innocent children who are fighting, even while grown adults refuse to do so.