The Nigerian school girls abducted by terrorist group Boko Haram in April have received worldwide attention, but little time has been given to more than 140 Kurdish teenage boys who were kidnapped and being held hostage by Islamic terrorists three weeks ago.
The abduction occurred during their journey back from Aleppo to their home, a Kurdish-dominated town called Ayn al-Arab, located in Northern Syria on the Turkish boarder. The students were traveling to take exams required by Syria’s education system. The convoy of 10 minibuses was stopped and taken to Minibej where the teens were forced into religious school to learn about the Qur’an and jihad, reports James Harkin for The Guardian.
The group behind the kidnapping is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which separated the students by gender and let the girls go home. ISIS has recruited children to fight with adults and participate in suicide attacks, but it is unclear if this is ISIS’s intention with the Kurdish boys, reports Daily News Egypt.
A few days after the kidnapping, two boys managed to escape, reports Salma Abdelaziz for CNN.
“We were all so scared. On the way back, we were celebrating that we had finished our tests. We were excited to go home and see our families. We didn’t know why they took us,” says a student named Mohammed, who asked his full name not be used for fear of his safety.
Mohammed remembers that his first morning in captivity began at a mosque in Manbij where the militants warned the boys if anyone was found trying to escape they would be beheaded.
The radical school began almost immediately. Every morning, the boys were woken up at dawn by local sheiks for prayer and then spent five hours watching graphic videos or suicide operations and executions and learning jihad.
The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) often battle with ISIS and both sides have taken prisoners. A PKK spokesperson thinks that ISIS may have taken the boys in order to demand an exchange for prisoners, reports Mitchell Prothero for The Miami Herald.
“We are waiting for their demands to determine if there should be a prisoner swap,” said Raydour Khalil in a telephone interview. “The self-defense forces are doing what they can to gain the release of the children.”
Despite a claim that the boys would be released after 10 days, only two were let go on June 5. Parents are growing concerned that their children are being brainwashed after weeks of instruction by the ISIS.