Losing Cristina. A story about Isis

“Infidels, pagans, non-believers,” these are terms the Islamic State (IS) uses when referring to minority groups within their reach. IS’s aggressive entry into Iraq, which is home to mostly Sunni Muslims, made additional targets of minorities who practice Yazidism or Christianity. Some of IS’s most vile tactics have been its public penchant for the abduction and forced conversion of children from these minority groups.
After two and half years under Islamic State control civilians from Mosul, Iraq cross a bridge in front of Mosul University, which was closed by ISIS, until Iraq Special Forces liberated the area. ISIS took control of Mosul University two and a half years ago, turning it into a facility that could benefit their interests. The science laboratories were used as a facility for making weapons. Iraq forces supported by US led coalition air strikes destroyed most of Mosul University, while ISIS is believed to have started fire to some of the buildings.

In 2014, IS entered the town of Qaraqosh, located in the Nineveh plains, an area of Iraq home to many Assyrian Christians. Qaraqosh was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community, mostly those that practice Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity. Iraq, which has one of the oldest Christian communities in the world has seen its numbers dwindle in recent years, leaving Christianity in Iraq vulnerable to extinction. Iraq’s minority children who were abducted by IS, only intensified the fragility of both Christian and Yazidi populations.

In December of 2016, Qaraqosh was liberated from IS, but the scars remain. Iraq’s missing children are living shadows amidst the burned out churches, mosques, and other destroyed buildings that IS left in its wake. Christina, from a Qaraqosh Catholic family, was only four years old at the time of her abduction. The tragedy has left her family living in a refugee camp and too afraid to return home. Christina is thought to still be alive. Her fate like so many other minority children abducted by IS is one of forced conversion or even conscription. The report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict reported the number of children abducted by IS is greatly under documented due to a lack of access to conflict torn areas.

About the author
Bethanie Mitchell is an independent freelance multimedia journalist, documentary photographer, writer and experienced photographic educator currently based in Seattle, Washington. Her work has focused on human rights, conflict, and contemporary issues both domestically and internationally and has appeared in print and online publications. Much of her personal work has been done in Myanmar where she lived for six years, documenting the country during the dictatorship, as well as its political opening. In addition, she works as an instructor at a photography school in Seattle, Washington where she teaches photography and multimedia classes and workshops. She is available for assignments globally.

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