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Children in former Islamic State bastions allegedly tortured by Kurdish forces

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Khazir camp, near the Iraqi city of Mosul, welcomes hundreds of displaced children AFP / Thomas Coex

Although the territories once claimed by the Islamic State armed group in Syria and Iraq are no longer under militant control, many caught in the pandemonium of war are still paying the price. And some of them are children.


The Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq has been reportedly torturing children to force them to confess to their involvement with IS.

Security officers, known as Asayish, allegedly used beatings, stress positions and electric shocks on boys who were in their custody.

In interviews with RFI and Human Rights Watch, the children say they never had access to a lawyer and were not allowed to read the confessions prepared by the Asayish, which they were forced to sign.

After being released from prison, the children maintain their innocence and say they had no choice but to confess.

In a camp for internally displaced persons in Northern Iraq, RFI's Noé Pignede met with some of the children.

To maintain their security neither their names nor their full location can be disclosed.

“They took me to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, to interrogate me. They violently tortured me. The interrogations were terrible…I couldn’t stand it. I admitted, even though I was never a member of IS. It was the torture that pushed me to say I was a jihadist,” says one young boy.

He now lives with others who were also allegedly tortured by the Kurdish forces.

Here in the camps, they live like sardines along with other victims of so-called justice, crammed into a shack of ten to a room.

Another boy tells RFI that he was tortured using the ‘scorpion’ technique.

“My hands were attached behind at my back, one over my shoulder and one from below so that my back was arched. Afterwards they plunged a pipe into my anus.”

Details from the report

According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, 20 boys, aged 14 to 17, were charged or convicted of having had IS affiliation and were being held at the Women and Children’s Reformatory in Erbil.

The reformatory is a locked detention center surrounded by high walls.

It is one of the three facilities holding children in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The report states that 23 children said one or more of the Asayish officers had tortured them during interrogation at the facilities.

They reported being beaten all over their bodies with plastic pipes, electric cables or rods.

Three boys indicated they had also received electric shocks.

Islamic State armed group affiliation

Several of the boys interviewed said they had joined and worked for IS or had received religious or military training.

One worked as a driver, another as a cook.

But many said they had no personal involvement with IS, although members of their families had indeed been involved.

Unfortunately, neither HRW nor RFI can independently verify those claims.

International human rights

Under the https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx )" target="_blank">Convention for the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1989, children should only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest time possible.

For children recruited by armed forces or groups, the law calls on states to assist in providing appropriate assistance for physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.

Children charged with criminal offenses have the right to legal assistance and they have to right not to be compelled to give testimony or confess guilt.

Statements taken under torture cannot be used as evidence in court.

Response from the Kurdish government

The Kurdish government of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq has categorically denied such reports to both HRW and RFI.

Another attempt to contact the spokesperson of the Kurdish military in Iraqi Kurdistan was made, but no response has yet been received.