Agony of mother who left little boy to die
Nobody knows why the paralysed Yazidi boy, no more than eight years of age, was abandoned on Mount Sinjar.
For more than a day he lay, dying and alone on the exposed Iraqi mountainside, unaided by the thousands of people who traipsed past him, themselves desperate to escape the hellish conditions.
Perhaps, doctors speculated, his mother no longer had the strength to carry him and had to leave him to save her other children.
These are the terrible decisions that Yazidis and other residents of Sinjar province, stranded on the side of the mountain after they fled the invasion by the Islamic State into their towns and villages, were forced to make.
The horror stories are plenty at Nawrouz camp in Syria, the first place of rest for the refugees who managed to escape: tales of the weak and the elderly, too frail to continue the long journey, bidding goodbye to relations forced to leave them on the mountainside to die; of young boys and girls separated from their families; of people burying their brothers, mothers and children as they succumbed to the savage heat.
When Syrian Kurdish fighters found the boy, who doctors have named Anonymous, on the mountainside, he was hours from death.
"He was in a coma. We could only tell he was alive because of a faint heartbeat," said Josef Shokri, a doctor from the Syrian hospital where he has now been taken.
Suffering from a medical condition that paralysed him down his right side, the boy had been unable to move.
He was left to lie on his back in temperatures of more than 50 degrees. His eyes had dried out. His body had gone into shock and he became unable to blink. His corneas were scorched by the light and heat. "He has ulcers in his eyes and they have become infected," said Dr Shokri. "He lay with his eyes open, without blinking for 24 hours. His cornea is white, making him almost blind. We hope that we will be able to save some of his sight."
When I visited the hospital yesterday, "Anonymous" cut a shrunken figure, alone in his bed, attached to a drip with a bandage over his eyes. He was unable to speak. Only through grunts and jerks of his arms could he convey to his nurse the pain and distress he was suffering.
The boy's only visitors were mothers who had become separated from their children on the mountain and, after hearing rumours of a lone boy, had come to see if he was their son.
"Three women have come just during my shifts," said Hayal Mousa (44), the nurse charged with caring for the boy. "Other nurses told me others had come while I was away."
Aid workers and Kurdish soldiers involved in the rescue mission estimate that more than 150,000 fleeing people escaped via Mount Sinjar, when jihadists stormed their province last weak.
Most of them were Yazidis, Christians and other minorities who knew the invaders would show them no mercy.
Those who did not flee have disappeared or, still in hiding, phone their relations with stories of mass graves, of entire families executed, of women rounded up and "sold" as sex slaves.
"We spent almost three days without food," said Cive (37), a mother who fled with her family. "We had nothing. We didn't see any of the aid that was dropped. We had a plastic bag for shelter: in the day we used it to protect us from the sunshine, and we slept on it at night. We saw children dying from dehydration and hunger. (© Daily Telegraph London)