Innocent and terrified boys, aged from three to 16, entered what appeared to be a Mosul orphanage with tears streaming down their faces asking about their parents.
The boys’ parents went missing after Islamic State militants raided through Northern Iraq in 2014, and the boys were taken straight to an Islamic State training facility in eastern Mosul.
Life in the “orphanage” began to take its toll on the boys, as they soon absorbed ISIS’ strict, outrageous ideology and began to refer to their families as enemies, or apostates.
It didn’t matter whether they were Yazidis or Shi’ite Muslims because they were all schooled in Sunni Islam by militants.
Arithmetic books feature imagery of warfare and history books focus solely on the early years of Islam and martial events. The English book used words such as martyr, sniper, mortar and bomb alongside words like an ant, apple, and yawn.
The word “woman” was shown with a black figure in full niqab covering. All the other faces in the books were blurred.
They were forced to convert and memorized the Koran. Outsiders were to be treated as infidels.
The boys were being trained to be Cubs of the Caliphate.
New groups of children arrived at the Zuhur orphanage every month from all over Mosul and a few outside areas, including Syria.
The older kids were immediately sent off to Mosul’s Tel Afar for intense military training with the Islamic State.
“After six months at the camps, some of the boys came back to spend a weekend with their younger brothers. They were wearing uniforms and carrying weapons,” the orphanage worker said, according to Reuters, who exclusively visited the site.
The orphanage has since been abandoned after Iraqi forces launched a U.S.-backed offensive in October 2016 to retake Mosul. A few weeks before the attacks began, the lessons were canceled, and all of the boys were sent to Tel Afar, but evidence of the horrors remain.
No one knows what became of the once-innocent boys, but it can be assumed they have all been killed amid attacks.
“I told them, ‘If you see the army, drop your weapons and tell them you are orphans. Maybe they will spare your lives.'”
By Abigail James