A Christian mother and son who escaped ISIS' rule after spending two years in captivity have opened up about the atrocities they endured at the hands of the terrorist group, including forced conversions and witnessing gun-wielding Jihadi children kill prisoners.
Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Jandark Benham Mansour Nassi, 55, and her son Ismail, 16, gave an account of being taken from their home in Bartella - a predominantly Christian town of under 20,000 - to Mosul when ISIS invaded towns and villages in the Nineveh plains in August 2014.
"I was very afraid," said Jandark, a widow. "Our names were written down, and we had no idea where we were and what would happen to us. We were completely shut off from the outside world. Shortly after, we received permission to return to Bartella, but at a checkpoint we had to convert to Islam and when we refused, they hit us. My son was put in prison. He was only 14 years old."
Ismail recounted seeing gun-wielding "jihadi" children - dubbed "cubs of the caliphate" - killing orange-clad IS prisoners, and witnessing a woman bound hand and foot being stoned to death.
"Once, when I was going to the mosque with the Jihadists early in the morning, our path was blocked," he recalled. "Suddenly we were passed by men in orange suits, held at gunpoint by a group of Daesh children. The children executed them with pleasure."
He continued: "Another time I ran into a big crowd on the street. There was a woman; her hands and feet were tied. The Daesh terrorists drew a circle around her. If she got out of the circle, she would live, but that was impossible because she was tied. While her relatives were crying and begging for a pardon, the Jihadists threw stones at her until she died.
The teenager described how IS threatened to kill him if he refused to convert to Islam and recalled the humiliation of later converting to Islam against his will. He also shared how he was forced to go to a "correctional camp" where the jihadi militants tried to force him to marry, in spite of him being only 15 at the time.
"I was put in the prison of Bartella," he said. "One day a Shi‘a [Muslim] was shot right in front of me. The terrorists told me: ‘If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well'. That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians."
He continued: "Daesh warriors wanted me to marry, so I would be one of them. I objected, stating that I was too young: 15 years. They were not impressed, because even boys of thirteen were married. The terrorists wanted me to join them. They were convinced: ‘Our state will survive everything.'"
Ismail was forced to learn the Quran, while his mother tortured for knowing nothing about the religion.
"Daesh warriors made me pray," says Ismail. "I received a prayer rug on which I could call upon Allah. Men were obligated to pray in the mosque on Friday. Anyone who would walk on the streets during the Friday prayer would be beaten. In the mosque, we were told that Assyrians were evil and that Christians did not believe in the right way. My mother should have to pray at home but she did not pray to Allah.
"Then the Daesh warriors found my necklace with a cross, a sign that I am a Christian. The Jihadists beat me and I had to study the Qur'an for a month. I was hit whenever I could not answer their questions the way they wanted me to, and my mother was stung with long needles because she had not studied anything from the Qur'an."
The pair eventually found safety in Erbil, which World Watch Monitor notes was a refuge for the thousands of Christians fleeing the Nineveh plains during the summer of 2014.
"Da'esh snipers tried to shoot us. We ran for cover into a house. After hours of fighting, my mother and I were able to leave the house, waving a white flag. Soldiers of the Iraqi liberation army welcomed us. We were free," Ismail said.