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'IS Said We Must Become Muslims Or They'd Slit Our Throats'


Taolo Rasu, a 60-year-old disabled Yazidi man, was held captive by the Islamic State (IS) group for six months.

Taolo Rasu, a 60-year-old disabled Yazidi man, was held captive by the Islamic State (IS) group for six months.

"They told us that we must become Muslims, or they would slit our throats," says Taolo Rasu, a 60-year-old disabled Yazidi man who was held captive by the Islamic State (IS) group for six months.

Rasu recalls one particular day when the militants came to inspect the Yazidi captives and threatened to kill him if he refused to convert to the extremist group's hard-line interpretation of Islam.

"They put a gun to my head, and said, 'If you do not become a Muslim we will cut your throat.' So I told them that I had become a Muslim," he says.

Rasu is from Sinjar in northern Iraq, a town that up until August 2014 was mostly inhabited by Yazidis, a religious minority. When IS militants overran Sinjar on August 3, tens of thousands of Yazidis were forced to flee to the mountains. The militants captured thousands of those Yazidis who did not manage to escape, selling women and girls into sexual slavery and forcing others to convert to their version of Islam.

Rasu, who is disabled with one leg, was released with a group of about 200 other senior Yazidi men and women in January. Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq from a refugee camp near Dohuk, he recalls how IS militants came and took him and around 2,000 other Yazidis away.

"They took us to Kocho, then Tel Afar, then to Mosul," Rasu says.

The militants who captured the Yazidis were local people, according to Rasu, who says that even the guards were locals.

In Mosul, the captive Yazidis had to fend for themselves, Rasu remembers. Those who died were "just taken away and buried."

Food was "meager," he says. "There was no bread. We were prisoners so we had to bear the hunger and the thirst," Rasu adds.

The captive Yazidis had no access to medicine, except what they were able to get in the village. "We would go there and they would say there is no medicine. They told us we were nonbelievers and that we should become Muslims," Rasu says.

Among the group of Yazidis captured by the militants were many girls, women, and children, Rasu says. The militants took the girls and women away. "I myself saw them take about 50 [girls]. They took them for themselves," Rasu told RFE/RL.

The Yazidis who were released in January were elderly, disabled, or sick, according to Rasu, who says that the militants told him and the others who were let go that they had been pardoned by the group's commander, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Although he has been released, Rasu says he has relatives who are still being held hostage by the IS group. "There are 12 of them," he says.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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