The family of a five-year-old boy named ‘Messi’ by his football-mad father have spoken about their ordeal at the hands of Isis, six months after being freed.
Iraqi news outlet Kurdistan 24 interviewed Messi and members of his family in footage aired on Tuesday.
The Yazidi family said they were kidnapped from their home of Singar in northern Iraq after the militants blitzed across the border from Syria in 2014, and held captive for two years.
Messi, now five, was named after the famous Argentinean Barcelona player, but when Isis learned his name they declared it blasphemous and the family were forced to change it to ‘Hassan’, the boy’s aunt told a reporter.
“They brainwashed and intimidated the child, making him reject his name and ask to be called Hassan,” she said.
Messi is traumatised by his experiences in captivity. He is now unsure whether to answer to his name and barely speaks, according to his family.
The little boy wore Messi’s FC Barcelona shirt while being interviewed, and played with both a football and a toy gun.
Isis’ persecution of Iraq’s religious minority Yazidi population - including mass murder, enslavement, and rape - has been likened to a genocide.
More than 5,000 have been killed by the Sunni extremists, and around 7,000 are still held in captivity, the UN says - although the true figures are likely to be far higher.
Messi’s family were rescued from Isis by Kurdish peshmerga troops in October 2016, and are currently living at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Aqrah, a town under Kurdish control.