How One Man Survived an ISIS Massacre

When ISIS fighters took over his Kurdistan village, Said Marat was rounded up to be executed. Miraculously, he made it out alive

ZAKHO, IRAQI KURDISTAN—Said Murat knew something was wrong when the ISIS militants who had taken control of his Kurdistan village ordered people into male and female groups. But he really got scared when the pickup trucks that were supposed to take them to nearby Mount Sinjar were instead driven to an irrigation pool at the edge of the village.

“They had gathered us once and they told us to convert to Islam,” he tells me two weeks later in a hospital in the northern Iraqi town of Zakho. “But when we refused, they said there was no problem and we wouldn’t be harmed.”

But the militants were lying. After Kurdish forces, running out of ammunition, withdrew from the Sinjar area in the beginning of August, fighters with the extremist Islamic State, commonly called ISIS, moved in to take control of the minority Yazidi villages. They came with a plan of extermination.

“On Aug. 15 they informed us that we would be transported to Mount Sinjar by cars,” says the 22-year-old from the village of Kocho. “We said fine. They gathered us in the school building and ordered us to separate into two groups: women and men over the age of 12. The men were driven away in two trucks, group by group.”

Said Murat was in a group of about 30 men. “They took us to the northwestern edge of the village where there were some irrigation pools that were used by the nearby farms,” he recalls. “These pools had no water in them at the time. They ordered us to get into them and lie down, and then between 10 to 12 fighters opened fire at us.”

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