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Iraq: 'The jihadists raped women and children'

Published: 22 Aug 2014 17:04 GMT+02:00

From the rescue plane which took them on a one-way journey to France, two Iraqi refugees revealed tales of rape and fear at the hands of Islamic State that forced them to flee their homeland with nothing.

Rene, who did not want to give his last name, said the Islamic extremists currently rampaging through Syria and Iraq were as terrifying as they were sophisticated in their communication methods.

He was one of 40 refugees who landed Thursday in Paris after being flown out of Arbil along with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who indicated that France was prepared to take in more people in "extreme cases."

"The jihadists raped women and girls, kidnapped people," Rene said.

"It was very hard. We have friends that are Muslims, who are very nice. But these people? I don't know why they do that. Because we're Christians, that's all."

He added that the militants from IS, a group born out of the ashes of the 2003 US-led invasion in Iraq that gained strength when it spread into neighbouring Syria, had pre-warned residents in Mosul of their imminent arrival in June.

The group then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now known as IS, seized the city of some two million people, prompting hundreds of thousands of its citizens to flee.

"Even before they arrived, I got three direct messages on my mobile" from the jihadists, Rene said.

"There are a lot of Christians that want to come to France or to Europe because it is impossible to live with people that hate us. We are humiliated, persecuted. We cannot live like that," he added.

'Now I'm nothing'

Fabius told BFM television earlier Friday that Paris would give priority to those who had a link with France.

He stressed that if all the refugees left Iraq, this would in effect hand victory to the extremists, but Western countries had to act to save the "extreme cases."

"That could be several hundred, maybe a few thousand people in our case," he added.

After their high-profile seizure of Mosul in June, IS militants went back on the offensive earlier this month.

They attacked mainly Christian and Yazidi Kurdish areas east and west of the city, sparking a fresh exodus of civilians and prompting the United States to launch air strikes to halt the extremists' charge.

"We'll have to start again from zero," admitted Rene.

"It's hard but it will be better for us than to live under threats and insecurity."

Rajhad, a 31-year-old English teacher, also fled in panic from the Islamic State threat after having lived in fear of jihadists for years.

"In 2005 they made me wear the veil because it was Ramadan ... if I didn't wear it they would kill me.

"They are horrific. They want to force us to convert, make us Muslim. They want to kill us just because we are Christian."

If she had stayed, Rajhad, who also declined to give her second name, would have faced a stark choice: convert or pay a monthly 'tax'. She chose another path "We left everything in a few hours. It was horrible."

"France is our last chance. We have nothing. No house, no job. We have lost everything. I used to be an English teacher. Now I'm nothing."

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AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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