In May, 16-year-old Azzadin Omar was allegedly one of 153 students captured by ISIL militants as they were on their way back to the border city of Kobane from school exams in Aleppo, Syria.
“When I was first captured and learned I was with ISIL I was scared. We couldn’t trust them of course. They were saying they would not do anything to us, but we were still afraid of them,” Omar said.
Within the first few hours, ISIL released the girls and the young boys, but the roughly 100 that remained would be held hostage for months.
Omar believed they were captured for being from Kobane where ISIL is fighting a deadly war against Kurdish fighters for the strategic town.
Despite the lingering fear, Omar said they were treated rather well. In the first month, the students were allowed to contact their families, enjoy an outdoor area, and even play football to pass the time.
Then the atmosphere changed after some of the students managed to escape, he said.
“They made a room for torturing the students. If someone wanted to or tried to escape, they took them to that room and tortured them very, very badly,” Omar said.
After four months in captivity, the militants released about 77 of the students who they believed did not have any political or regional associations. Azzadin was one and he quickly found an Internet cafeteria and called his parents.
“They told me to go to village near Mounbij and then cross into Turkey. I was so happy. I couldn’t believe I was home again,” Omar said.
Omar said he now appreciates the smallest tasks, like washing the dishes. He said he is more religious now, prays everyday, and prays to return to Kobane.