Portrait of a Child Soldier: Zahra

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source: Youtube

Bozan Mahmud is a Kurd, originally from the village of Ali-Sharê near Kobanî, but he has lived in ar-Raqqah for the past forty-two years. His fifteen-year-old daughter Zahra Mahmud was abducted in the afternoon of June 18, 2015 in Erbil by supporters of the PYD. Bozan Mahmud deems it impossible that his daughter might have joined the YPJ voluntarily.

»She is absolutely apolitical. She cannot tell which parts [states] make the four regions of Kurdistan.«

The day she was abducted, Zahra had attended an English course offered by the Mustafa Barzanî Foundation. It was also planned that Zahra attended a follow-up course. On the day of her disappearance, one of Bozan Mahmud’s brothers saw Zahra getting into a taxi. When he asked where she was going, her companion replied that they were going to join a training group. Since then, there has been no contact with Zahra.

One day after her disappearance, Bozan Mahmud approached the Kurdish TV station Rudaw and gave an interview:

»She has been missing since yesterday. She was supposed to receive her certificate. By 5:00 pm, she had not returned home and we started worrying. Then, a relative of ours was called. The person who was calling named himself Ibrahim Shaikh Haydarî and said that he was from Kobanî. And he said that my daughter has joined them and that she will go to Qandil. My daughter is absolutely not political. My whole family is not political. I am a poor man. My thirteen-year-old son is selling water on the main road so that we can survive. I’m sick and I have had three surgeries because of my liver. I had a stroke. I am not well at all.«

Bozan Mahmud has tried to get in touch with Zahra several times after she disappeared. He even contacted the man who had informed the family via phone about his daughter’s recruitment, Ibrahim Shaikh Haydarî, a PYD cadre.

»I begged him and I said that my daughter was still a minor. And that they are violating the law with her recruitment and that it is prohibited in any country to recruit minors. Because she is not yet of full age. They had to ask for my permission or for Zahra’s mother’s permission. I’m suffering very much.«

Responding to these accusations, Ibrahim Shaikh Haydarî had only responded that [the PYD] does not care how old the recruits are who join the People’s Defense Units.

»›Whether they are eleven or twelve years old, it is not against our laws. We send them to fight and they will become martyrs. This is for the homeland.‹ That was the answer I received. Nothing else.«

Bozan Mahmud mobilized friends and relatives and asked them to go to Ibrahim Shaikh Haydarî in person, hoping that this could persuade him to release Zahra from the YPG and send her back home. This too was unsuccessful.

»I think that except for a terrorist organization nobody would do something like this; to take eleven and twelve-year-old children for military service.«