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IRAQ

Iraq: ‘The jihadists raped women and children’

Iraqi refugees who landed in France this week spoke of the horror as Islamic extremists rampaged through their homeland "raping women and children".

Iraq: 'The jihadists raped women and children'
Iraqi Christian refugees who fled the violence in their country reunite with relatives residing in France upon their arrival in Paris on August 21, 2014. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

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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IRAQ

Boy killer in latest Isis video ‘is French citizen’

Officials in France claimed on Wednesday that a young boy and man who appeared in the Isis execution video are French citizens. The man is believed to be a relative of Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah who killed seven people in 2012.

French police were on Wednesday probing whether a man seen in a video released by the Islamic State group purporting
to show the execution of an Arab Israeli was close to French jihadist gunman Mohamed Merah.

In the video, a youth identifying himself as 19-year-old Mohammed Said Ismail Musallam is shown kneeling in front of a boy who appears to be no more than 12-years-old. A man stands at his side.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit that is standard in videos of IS executions, the man seen kneeling  recounts how he was recruited by Israeli intelligence, a claim denied by his father.

The man standing nearby, speaking in French, issues threats against Jews in France, before the boy walks around in front of the hostage and shoots him in the forehead using a pistol.

The boy, who shouts “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), then shoots the man four more times as he lies on the ground.

“We are checking” the identity of the man, a police source who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

An unnamed source in the intelligence services told American news agency AP that boy and the man were both French citizens.

Several experts, including journalist David Thomson who wrote a book about French jihadists, say the man is Sabri Essid, reportedly the half-brother of Merah who shot dead three soldiers in southern France in 2012 before killing three students and a teacher at a Jewish school more than a week later.

Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the start of Merah's killing spree, which ended with him dying in a shootout with police.

Another source close to the case, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said there were “similarities” with Essid, adding they could not be certain.

Known to intelligence services as a key figure in the radical Islamist community in Toulouse, Essid is suspected to have left France for Syria last year.

Merah's sister Souad also left for Syria last spring, reportedly with family members.

Essid had already been caught in December 2006 in Syria in a house known to shelter Al-Qaeda members on their way to Iraq.

He was sent back to France and was sentenced in 2009 to five years in jail, including one year suspended, in a case involving an Iraqi jihadist network.

His father had lived with Merah's mother, and Essid was close to the killer and his brother Abdelkader.

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