Dohuk (IraqiNews.com) At a refugee camp in Dohuk, a five-year-old Kurdish Yazidi kid almost never takes off his FC Barcelona shirt, which bears the name and number of Lionel Messi, FIFA’s five-time world’s best footballer.
But the child’s name did not appeal to his Islamic State captors, who ordered his family to change his “infidel” name, as they described it. His father, an ardent fan of the Catalan team, had given him the exact name of Argentinian superstar.
Islamic State militants kidnapped Messi, his mother and his sister in 2014, when the extremist group invaded the Sinjar region, the Yazidi habitat west of the Nineveh province icin Iraq and the stage of heinous massacres that inflicted the religious minority.
His father told Kurdistan 24 website that Islamic State militants deemed his name “infidel”. His mother was quoted by Iraq Today website saying that IS members refused to let her and her children go without ransom, adding that being totally broke, the militants ordered her to change Messi’s name to Hassan, a Muslim name.
Captivity has left its marks on Messi. After spending most of his days playing with a football, he now brandishes a toy gun. Psychological pressures resulting from years of captivity have rendered the boy almost speechless. He nods in disapproval when called with his problematic name, apparently still afraid from the militants who chided his family for it.
Thousands of Yazidi Kurds fled Sanjar, a Mosul region on the borders with Syria, to nearby mountain areas following its fall to Islamic State militants in August 2014. The extremist group massacred, enslaved and tortured thousands of that community.
Data from March revealed that 2915 Yazidis were rescued from Islamic State captivity, including nearly 1500 children, while more than 3500 were still in the extremist group’s hold, including more than 1700 women.
The Kurdish-speaking community came to the spotlight when Islamic State militants, taking over large parts of Iraq, victimized its members, committing massacres and subjecting them to forced conversions, sexual slavery and other reported atrocities.