At its peak between 2014 and 2016, ISIS held nearly one-third of Iraq’s territory. Its propaganda poisoned the minds of thousands, and Iraqis suffered greatly in ways that are still difficult for many of them to talk about—the horrors are too hard to bear.
An estimated 300,000 children and teens lived under ISIS rule. Their universities were destroyed. The curricula of elementary and high schools were replaced with ISIS ideology and training, including lessons on how to make IEDs, engage in combat, or wage suicide attacks.
Some young people were recruited, others were forced into camps, while still others attended ISIS-run schools to learn, among other things, how to behead a human being. Those whose parents managed to keep them at home were still exposed to ISIS brutality: Whenever they went out they could watch ISIS propaganda on television screens that were placed all over the ISIS-controlled cities, running nonstop. Worse still, they saw ISIS beheadings and other atrocities in front of their eyes.