KURDISTAN, North Iraq Living Under the Eyes of ISIS

Conscience International volunteer Robert Smucker delivering groceries to Mosul refugees. Conscience International Photo

As soon as Conscience International volunteer Robert Smucker arrived in Kurdistan this spring (2017), he helped load a truck with 1200 thirty-pound boxes of rice and 2400 six-packs of half-liter jars of baby food, and headed to Camp Jamakor twenty-five miles east of worn-torn Mosul, traveling over hastily built muddy roads through an area once controlled by ISIS. Every village along the way had been heavily damaged, and all had been abandoned by people trying to escape the brutality of ISIS.

The camp, built to house 20,000 displaced persons in tents sees hundreds of families arriving each week, their homes lost to the terror of war. Many problems exist-the lack of clean water and a proper medical facility being key. Many children have dysentery.

"As we talked to families, one lady was holding a picture of her husband and son who were taken by ISIS a year ago," Robert reports. "Another lady told us that her husband was a policeman, executed by ISIS. Escaping with her five children on foot, and trying to avoid ISIS patrols, they walked 42 miles over a circuitous route to reach the Jamakor camp, although a direct route to camp is less than 18 miles from Mosul…An older lady told us ISIS came to her house one night and took her husband and their four adult sons and executed them while ISIS filmed the execution and sent a copy of it to her through WhatsApp…One father cried as he told the story of his 13-year-old daughter being killed by ISIS as he and his family watched at gunpoint, helpless to do anything to save her... Another man told us of a family member who was executed by hanging him on a light post. The family was not allowed to take the body down because ISIS wanted him left there as an example, for what I was not sure."

"The stories are many, and they are all the same--brutality from ISIS. If you are caught with a cell phone, you are shot. If you have a radio, you are shot. If you had a TV, you were shot. If you did not adhere to their interpretation of Islam, you were killed. If your pants were not the right length you were sent to prison. If your beard was not trimmed to ISIS custom, you went to prison. Women were required to dress according to strict ISIS dress codes and Islamic laws. If not, they were sent to prison or worse. I will leave the worse to your imagination."