Al Arabiya exclusively interviewed four boys who were living under ISIS and representative of a center who aims to rehabilitate them. The children revealed details about the reality of life under the extremist group and how they came to join them as well as highlighting their military training procedures and the ideology that sustained the ISIS grip on power.
This is the full transcript of Al Arabiya's exclusive interview with former ISIS child fighter Obaida.
Obaida you are from Deir ez-Zor, tell me what’s your story.
I was in Susah, an ISIS held area, I left Susah on 22/7, my mom told me leave and go find a house in SDF’s territory so we can live in it. We went to an area called Busairah. I stayed with someone in his home, and the next morning he went and informed the authorities that I am an ISIS member. The SDF’s public security came and arrested me from the house and they took me to jail. I stayed in jail for about 2 months. I admitted that I was a member of ISIS, they transferred me to al-Kasrah, they interrogated us, and took us to al-Sowar. From al-Sowar they brought me to the center here.
What happened to your arm?
I was serving, and a warplane struck us.
That means that you were trained by ISIS and fought with them?
No, I did not fight with them. I served with them, but I never fought.
What do you mean you served?
I was against the Iraqi Army in Iraq.
And you lost both hands?
This was cut after it we were struck by the warplane. And this hand was cut by ISIS.
Why did they cut it?
They accused me of stealing weapons, I said I never stole. But Abdul Rahman AlJazrawi sentenced me to get my hand chopped off.
How many years ago was this?
How did this happen exactly?
We were living in the town of Baqan, at night I told my mom that I was going to Hajin so I can withdraw some money. I went to withdraw money at night, and at the checkpoint the ISIS security forces stopped me. They asked me where I was going, and I told them that I was going to exchange some money. They said that we just met thieves that stole weapons. They took us to jail and kept us there for two days before they freed us. I went home, and after ten days they arrested me again. They accused me of stealing the weapons, they took be back to prison and interrogated me.
Abu Abdul Rahman al-Jazrawi came and sentenced me to getting my hand chopped off. After they chopped off my hand I went to Susah and then came to here.
Did they chop your hand off in a public area?
Yes in Hajin, in front of everyone, they chopped my hand off.
And do they invite people to watch?
Yes, they announce that today we will execute the sentences handed down to so and so. They would announce the crimes they are accused of.
Did it hurt a lot?
Did they give you a pain killer or anything?
No they did not give me any pain killer.
How did they chop it off?
They used a cleaver to cut it off.
After they chop it off, what do they do with you? Do they leave you on the ground to bleed?
They let me bleed for a little bit and then took me to the clinic. They left me at the clinic and left. The doctors came and conducted the surgery. I left the clinic the next day. The next day I left the clinic. I was jailed for 2 months and 5 days with them.
You didn’t faint?
Yes, I fainted.
Did they perform an operation on you at the clinic?
Yes, they performed an amputation correction surgery. When they cut off my hand it was not straight, so they fixed it for me at the clinic. They took me to Qamishli I did the operation and I came here.
Weren’t you scared? How much were you scared when you found out they will cut off your hand?
I was scared, I was crying. He told me not to cry.
When they took me they applied anesthesia, and hit my hand twice before it was cut off. After my hand was cut off they started making fun of me, laughing at me.
So they gave you anesthesia before they cut it off?
They didn’t give me an anesthetic it was actually a disinfectant. But they lied to me and told me it’s an anesthetic. Then I realized it was a disinfectant.
What’s his name?
Abu Fathi al-Shami, he said he lived in Tunis, and Abdulrahman al-Jazrawi. Abdulrahman al-Jazrawi was the judge who sentenced me.
There was another person with them, he interrogated me, Abu Anas.
Did you train with ISIS, did you go to their schools?
No, Schools no.
You didn’t train on the use of weapons, you didn’t study Sharia?
Yes, I did.
What did you study?
I was trained to use a weapon, and I studied Sharia.
Did they force all the children to go or was it the parents’ choice whether to put their children in the ISIS’s schools?
There are some that willingly attend, some don’t. They talk to their parents and tell them to join. They won’t be able to live properly unless they joined them.
Where is your mother? Where is your father? Your siblings?
My mother is foreign, she is Filipino. My dad is Syrian.
How did you come? Before there was ISIS here?
Before ISIS, we have been in Syria for 19 years. We were in Kuwait, then we came here to Deir ez-Zor.
Before ISIS, back in the days of the Syrian state.
Where is your mother now?
I don’t know. I left her in Susah she told me to leave before them and find us house for us to live in. I left her and told her I’ll find a house then come back and take her.
Where is your father?
My father got sick and died.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, we are five children.
Where are your siblings?
With my mother. I am the eldest.
When you came here, or when they took you SDF and brought you here, did you accept the situation or not?
I accepted the situation here. When I came to the center here, when I first came they I was told ‘hopefully, you will get out, you will go back to your parents.’
We accepted the situation. They haven’t hurt us and treated us well.
What did they teach you about Islam? And about the people that aren’t with ISIS? What did you know about them? What would they tell you?
They would tell us these people are apostates and heathens. Those who don’t pray and fast are heathens. If a woman doesn’t wear the hijab they would flog her. They would teach us these things.