Kids' crusade: ISIS abducting & indoctrinating children – UN
While the use of children in conflict zones is nothing new, no other group comes close to Islamic State (IS) in being so open and transparent in their use of children as soldiers, according to Lelia Zerrougui, who is the UN secretary general’s special representative for children and armed conflict.
She added that IS is very organized, while they are helped by controlling such vast areas of land, which helps them to indoctrinate children to their radical interpretation of Shariah law.
"This is not a marginal phenomenon. This is something that is being observed and seems to be part of the strategy of the group," Zerrougui said in an interview with AP.
Children are being targeted as they are seen as being loyal for long periods of time, while they are easier to indoctrinate due to their age. In Raqqa, which is IS’s chief stronghold in Syria, boys attend training camps and religious courses, before being sent to the battlefield to fight. However, those who are seen as unsuitable as fighters are assigned other roles, such as being spies, cooks, cleaners or guards.
"They are abducting children and forcing them to join, they are brainwashing children and indoctrinating them to join their group. All the tools used to attract and recruit children are used by this group," she said, which was reported by AP. Zerrougui added that some children volunteered their services, while other kids as young as 9 or 10 are used as combatants or for "various roles."
To help their propaganda drive, IS has closed schools in areas in Iraq and Syria under their control. In some cases they have changed the curriculum to fit in their extremist ideology, with the aim of using “education as a tool of indoctrination to foster a new generation of supporters,” the UN stated in a recent report.
“ISIS has instrumentalised and abused children on a systematic scale. The deliberate nature of violations against children is apparent. By exploiting schools to indoctrinate children, the armed group fails in its obligations to ensure education and the protection of children from the dangers arising in war,” the UN report entitled, ‘Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria’ which was released on November 14, added.
In May, 153 Kurdish boys were abducted and held at a school in Aleppo province in Syria. They were subjected to five months of watching videos of beheadings and attacks, as well as being given daily lectures on the militant group’s ideology. Those who disagreed were subjected to violent beatings.
A separate report by AP has also documented numerous instances of the indoctrination of children by IS. One resident in the Iraqi city of Fallujah described seeing his 6-year-old son playing with a water pistol in front of his house and screaming: "I am a fighter for the Islamic State!"
"I waved him to come to me and I broke the gun in two pieces," the man said to AP, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his life.
He also said he and his son recently stopped at an IS checkpoint. His son shouted, "We love the State!" and one of the fighters asked, "Which state?" When the son replied, "the Islamic State," the fighter "told him, 'Good boy,' and let us through," the resident said. The incident had such an effect on the man that it persuaded to uproot his family from Fallujah to the northern city of Kirkuk, which is now controlled by Kurdish forces.
Another resident from Fallujah stated that boys not even in their teens are volunteering to join IS. However, he did add that the militant group does often seek the consent of their parents to allow them to join the organization, if the child in question is under 16.
"Once they're done training, their skills and abilities are tested before they decide where to send them off. Many want to be on the front lines," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Falluji, according to AP.
IS has also set fixed prices to sell Yazidi and Christian women who have been abducted by members of the militant group. The barbaric tariffs range from around $40 for older women to $170 for children. Girls falling into the 10 to 20 age group are being sold for $129 and children up to the age of nine, commanding the highest prices of $172 or 200,000 dinars.