Yezidi child soldiers film © Amnesty International/Fat Rat Films

Iraq: New documentary highlights plight of Yezidi child soldiers who survived Islamic State

Amnesty International and Fat Rat Films have today released a new documentary that highlights the ongoing struggles faced by Yezidi former child soldiers who survived abduction by the Islamic State (IS) armed group.

The 12-minute film, Captives on the Frontlines: Yezidi former child soldiers who survived ISIS, explores the friendship between Vian and Barzan, two young men who were abducted as boys by IS in 2014, indoctrinated into the armed group, and forced to fight. Both escaped and are now living in northern Iraq, where the documentary was filmed last year.

“This film captures the challenges still faced by Yezidi former child soldiers, and also the friendships that have flourished in the most difficult of circumstances,” said Nicolette Waldman, Researcher on Children and Armed Conflict on Amnesty International’s Crisis Response team.

This film captures the challenges still faced by Yezidi former child soldiers, and also the friendships that have flourished in the most difficult of circumstances.

Nicolette Waldman, Researcher on Children and Armed Conflict on Amnesty International’s Crisis Response team

“Former child soldiers are routinely stigmatized, which means their harrowing experiences are frequently kept in the shadows. By bravely sharing their own stories so openly, Vian and Barzan have helped shine a light on the struggles that remain for Yezidi former child soldiers today. Many of these young men, having endured unimaginable trauma, continue to have serious physical and mental health conditions.

“To date, many Yezidi survivors have still not received adequate support for their physical health, mental health or education. Indeed, many have not received support of any kind since they returned to their communities.

“The Iraqi authorities, their international partners, and the United Nations must ensure that Yezidi former child soldiers have full access to the reparations and assistance to which they are entitled under Iraq’s Yazidi Survivors Law (2021).

“They must also work together to establish a National Action Plan mandating that all current and former child soldiers in Iraq, including Yezidi boys and young men, are reintegrated into society and provided with coordinated, specialized and long-term support.”

The documentary was made in collaboration with award-winning documentary production company Fat Rat Films, and will be available here ahead of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers on Saturday 12 February.

Captives on the frontlines: Yezidi child soldiers who survived ISIS – the new documentary from Amnesty International and Fat Rat Films.

IS legacy of terror

Between 2014 and 2017, IS committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and what the UN describes as genocide against the Yezidi community in Iraq.

In July 2020, Amnesty International published a report that documented how Yezidi children who had returned to their families after being held captive by IS were facing a physical and mental health crisis. The report, Legacy of Terror: The Plight of Yezidi Child Survivors of ISIS, also addresses the urgent need to end the enforced separation of Yezidi women and their children born of sexual violence by IS members.

In November 2021, Amnesty International welcomed new regulations passed by Iraq’s parliament to implement the Yazidi Survivors Law, but warned that more work was still required in order to fully assist survivors of atrocities committed by IS.