(AINA) -- 12 Assyrians from the town of Bartella who had been held by ISIS escaped by falsely converting to Islam, which allowed them to leave the town. The Assyrians had accidentally remained in Bartella after everyone else had fled when ISIS captured the town.
Eleven of the Assyrians, including a toddler, were brought to Kirkuk where they were met by Father Qais. Ms. Samia Yusuf Iskandar was brought to Arbel. Their names are:
- Sabri Gewargis Abdulmassih
- Nabeel Salem Simon
- Tony Sabri Gewargis
- Milad Sabri Gewargis
- Khalid Sabri Gewargis
- Marvin Sabri Gewargis
- Saad Nafi Abdullah
- Suhaila Moshe
- Bushra Farooq Benham
- Salem Matti Gewargis
- Joseph Gog Kako
- Samia Yusuf Iskandar
The 12 Assyrians were interviewed by local media. Here is the account of their escape.
The reason they did not leave Bartella was because they were sleeping on their roof and did not know the whole town had left. When they awoke and went to the streets they were confronted by ISIS, who ordered them to return to their homes and not leave. ISIS told them they were in contact with their priests and they would let them know of any developments.
The Assyrians said for the first three days they were given food by ISIS but for the next 17 days after they were given nothing. They survived from whatever they had in the house.
ISIS stole all their money and their papers. They were brought to an Islamic court in Mosul where they "converted" and were given an Islamic state ID and then returned to Bartella. They said they saw one Assyrian who had not converted and was badly beaten, his hands were tied behind his back and he was driven off in a truck. They assumed that he was killed.
A brother to one of the women, from Zahko, gave her the telephone number of a Muslim man who is against ISIS and told her that he had helped another family escape.
They took two taxis to Mosul where they called the Muslim man; he brought them into his house for one night. He said that the journey to Kirkuk would cost them 650,000 IQD ($540) but if they did not have the money he would still bring them to Kirkuk. They left for Kirkuk at 6 AM. The driver told them to say that they were going to a family funeral in Kirkuk and to say that they were from Mosul, not Bartella, and they would be returning immediately after the funeral. They went through 16 ISIS checkpoints where they were asked the same questions each time, and some ISIS guards asked for an exact address in Mosul as a double check.
At the last ISIS check point their papers where taken away from them and after one kilometer the Peshmerga welcomed them into Kirkuk.