A Human Rights Watch report says Kurdish children between the ages of 14 - 16 were tortured and abused while detained by the Islamic State militant group in Syria.
The New York-based rights group says in May the Islamic State group kidnapped about 250 Kurdish children as they traveled home to the Syrian city of Kobani after taking school exams in Aleppo.
The militants initially released 100 girls, but kept 153 boys. For the boys it was the start of months of trauma and abuse, according to the rights group’s senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair Webb.
"The children were subjected to videos of ISIS’s battles and beheadings and made to watch these,” she explained. “They also subjected the children to religious education and a strict regime of prayer and study, and also subjected the children to regular beatings and torture."
Some of the children managed to escape while others were exchanged for captured militants held by the Kurdish militia defending Kobani, currently under siege by IS forces.
The last 25 children were released last week and most of those are believed to be from families connected to the Syrian Kurd PYD party.
HRW researcher Webb says the worst treatment was given to children connected to the militia fighting the militants in Kobani.
"The children told us those perceived by ISIS captors as being close to the YPG were singled out for the worst treatment. And the worst forms of torture included placing children inside a tire and beating them in that position and also suspending children, their hands tied behind their backs and feet tied up and suspending them from the ceiling,” she said.
The children’s eventual release did not mark the end of their traumatic experience, according to Webb.
"The exceptional part of this, is that they could not go back to Kobani, they had to make their way to Turkey, because Kobani was under siege already,” she noted. “So they did make their way to Turkey and they met up with their families in the southeast town of Suruc where we interviewed them."
The rights group says the experiences highlight again that children continue to be among the main victims of the ongoing civil war in Syria and conflict in Iraq. Webb says abuse of children is not confined to the Islamic State group.
"The ill treatment of children inflicted by ISIS has to be understood within the broader picture of the tragedy of the conflict that has affected children,” she explained. “The displacement, the killings and basically whole generations that now may not receive an education because they've been made to be displaced and live as refugees in surrounding countries."
Webb says because the abducted children are now living with their families in Turkish refugee camps or staying with extended families in Turkey, it's unlikely they will receive any counseling or therapy for the traumatic experience they have lived through.