On the 4th of August, 2014, ISIS invaded the remote area of Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq, home of the Yazidi community. Nine-year-old Erdowan was with his mother, sisters, and cousins on that fateful day when hordes of terrorists suddenly appeared. Like most of the terrified families, they attempted to flee the invaders by seeking refuge in the steep hills of the mountain. Unfortunately for them, ISIS gunmen were already there waiting to snatch the fleeing women and children. Entire families were captured on that day, including young Erdowan and his family.
Those who were not executed on the spot were taken as captives and slaves. Erdowan and his family were transferred to several prisons before he was finally separated from them eight months later. He was sent with other Yazidi boys to a religious school where he was forced to study Islam for the next two years. At a later stage the boys began receiving basic military training. ISIS is known for capturing young boys and forcefully converting them to Islam before transforming them into ruthless fighters or suicide bombers.
But it wasn’t long before the Iraqi army began advancing in Northern Iraq and liberating ISIS controlled areas. Fearing that the boys would be rescued, ISIS decided to move them. The boys were sent to Syria where they spent another two years before they ended up at the border town of Baghuz. But on February 9, 2019, the famous Battle of Baghuz Fawqani took place. It was one of the bloodiest battles against ISIS in which the main bulk of the terrorist forces was completely annihilated. After the battle, Erdowan ended up as a refugee in the infamous Al Hol camp along with the families of ISIS fighters.
Months later while conducting a rescue operation from within the Al Hol camp, a TNF operative came across reports of a young Yazidi boy claiming that his father was a commander in the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting against ISIS. Mohsen, a close friend of TNF happened to be a military commander in the Peshmerga forces who’ family was kidnapped by ISIS years ago. Many Yazidis had served with the infamous Kurdish military forces, but only a select few ever made it to the rank of commander in the Peshmerga.
Mohsen had been recently granted asylum in a Western nation and had just moved there with his daughter, believing that she was the sole survivor from his family. However, one TNF operative kept searching for the boy in the highly dangerous camp until he found him. He took pictures of Erdowan and sent them to Mohsen. The father who spent years looking for his son recognized him immediately!
In May 2021, a TNF team rescued Erdowan in a discreet but risky operation and extracted him to a safe location. He was reunited with his father who had travelled back to Iraq to be with his son.
TNF is still searching for Erdowan’s mother and his two sisters who remain missing. Many Yazidi children are still trapped in the Al Hol camp along with the families of ISIS fighters. They are often too afraid to reveal their identities fearing reprisal from ISIS supporters in the camp who remain dangerously active. Followers of the terrorist organization succeeded in forming an underground movement within the camp and have murdered dozens of their opponents within the past year.