Boys of war: ISIS recruit, kidnap children as young as 10 yrs

Published photo of young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIL, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab.

Published photo of young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIL, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab.

Sunni ISIS jihadists are recruiting children as young as 10 years old to fight for an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. While there are boys who voluntarily join the ISIS, there are many more who are being forced to fight for jihad.

10-year old Abdullah is the youngest known volunteer fighting with the ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul, according to The Daily Beast. It describes the moment of Abdullah casually walking into a local grocery store. This would be a common picture, except that the boy was masked and had a heavy machine gun, “about as big as him.”

Abdullah is reportedly hopeful about the prospects for the ISIS.

“We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem,” a gunman, who the news website assumed was responsible for the boy, said. “They have a dream and their dream is to establish an Islamic state.”

ISIS that has seized large parts of northern Iraq is, according to different estimates, between 7,000 to 10,000 fighters.


Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Reuters)

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Reuters)

In Mosul, which the group overran two weeks ago, the group is believed to have 4,000 troops and is desperate for more foot soldiers, the Daily Beast reported.

As soon as the ISIS took over the city, Sunni jihadists started looking for young men aged between 10 and 30 “both to control the territories they have and to join the fight on other fronts within Iraq.”

While the 10-year old Abdullah voluntarily joined ISIS, following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps, there are boys who are taken away from their families and forced to be in the group.

In neighboring Syria, a 14-year-old from Raqqa was lured into one of the ISIS camps, The Syria Deeply reported.

Mohammed was convinced the camp, specially designed for boys 15 and younger, had been established to teach Quran and the foundation of Islam.


Still from YouTube video/ITN

Still from YouTube video/ITN

“ISIS said this was the purpose of the camp,” the teenager told The Syria Deeply.

However, it turned out to be more than just that.

“The training was divided into two parts. In religious classes, they taught us their version of Islam, the extremist methods they follow, and the necessary foundations of creating an Islamic caliphate state – their ultimate goal. They also try to convince us of jihadist ideology, like the greatness of martyrdom,”Mohammed said.

The camp’s “curriculum” also included combat training and lessons on how to use arms. The “course” lasted for 25 days.

Abdullah and Mohammed are, obviously, far from the only children in the ISIS ranks.

Last week footage appeared online showing young boys holding what appeared to be assault rifles and sitting in trucks full of militants parading through captured Mosul, ITV reported.

There are cases of children being kidnapped and “brainwashed” by ISIS. Abducted in May in the city of Aleppo, Syria, the fate of 133 of 159 teenagers remain uncertain.

Two of the boys who escaped told the media that ISIS was forcing the children to undergo lessons in Sharia and jihadist ideology. Jihadists beat children who misbehaved.

In its report published on June 24, the Human Rights Watch said that in Syria, ISIS specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that included weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.

In its annual report issued mid-May, the UN also said that “children fighting with ISIS [in Syria] are reportedly paid like adults (35,000 Syrian pounds, approximately $200) and undergo both weapons and jihadist indoctrination training.”


‘Allah chose you’: ISIS & other jihadist groups recruit children in Syria for suicide missions

Syrian rebel groups, including ISIS fighters, have been recruiting 10-17-year-old children for military operations sometimes under the guise of offering education, says HRW. The teens were taught how to use weapons and were even sent on suicide missions.

“Opposition armed groups used boys as young as 15 as fighters and children as young as 14 in support roles. Some children who participated were detained or killed in battle,” says the latest report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The report, “‘Maybe We Live and Maybe We Die’: Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Groups in Syria,” deals with experiences of 25 boys who are current or former members of opposition armed groups.

Reuters / Jalal Al-Mamo

Reuters / Jalal Al-Mamo

Though the rebels mostly “employed” children of 15-17, one doctor described treating a boy of between 10 and 12 years old. He said that the boy’s job was “to whip prisoners held in an ISIS detention facility.”

Israel strikes 9 military targets in Syria

“Boys interviewed fought on the frontlines, spied on hostile forces, acted as snipers, treated the wounded on battlefields, and ferried ammunition and other supplies to battles while fighting raged,” HRW’s report says.

The number of children fighting on behalf of the rebels is as yet unknown, the report says. But it gives the data from the Violations Documenting Center, a Syrian monitoring group, which by May 2014 recorded 194 “non-civilian” male children killed since September 2011.

According to the rights watchdog, the children were taken by several extremist organizations. Among them were the Free Syrian Army (FSA), extremist Islamist forces such as the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) military and Asayish police forces in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria.

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The boys say they have joined the rebels due to different reasons. Some of them followed their relatives or friends who already served there. Other recruits “lived in battle zones without open schools, participated in public protests, or had personally suffered at the hands of the government,” HWR says.

The commanders sometimes asked the children and adults to take part in suicide missions, the boys added.

“Sometimes fighters volunteered, and sometimes [commanders] said, ‘Allah chose you,’” said Majed, 16, recruited by Jabhat al-Nusra in Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria.

Amr, another 15-year-old who fought with ISIS in northern Syria, said that his unit leaders encouraged him and other children to volunteer for suicide bombing attacks. He said he signed up reluctantly but was able to get away before his turn came up.

“Maybe we’ll live, and maybe we’ll die,” said Omar, who started fighting at age 14 with Jabhat al-Nusra.

In the meantime, the ISIS jihadist militant group recruited the teens more aggressively, “providing free lectures and schooling that included weapons and other military training,” HRW says.

Bassim, 17, who joined ISIS at age 16, told HRW that he was “inspired” by speeches and sermons given by members of the group.

“When ISIS came to my town…I liked what they are wearing, they were like one herd. They had a lot of weapons. So I spoke to them, and decided to go their training camp in Kafr Hamra in Aleppo,” he said,“The leader of the camp said [ISIS] liked the younger ones better…He told me, ‘Tomorrow they’ll be a stronger leader or a stronger fighter.’”


AFP Photo / Daniel Leal-Olivas

AFP Photo / Daniel Leal-Olivas


Some children received monthly salaries of up to $135 for their participation in the conflict, while others said they fought without pay.

“Syrian armed groups shouldn’t prey on vulnerable children – who have seen their relatives killed, schools shelled, and communities destroyed – by enlisting them in their forces,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, Middle East children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.“The horrors of Syria’s armed conflict are only made worse by throwing children into the front lines.”

Children who wanted to quit ‘dangerous business’ told HRW that they had a few options after leaving the rebels.

“I thought of leaving [the fighting] a lot,” said Saleh, 17, one of the recruits. “I lost my studies, I lost my future, I lost everything. I looked for work, but there’s no work. This is the most difficult period for me.”


International humanitarian law bans government forces and non-state armed groups from recruiting and using children as fighters and in other support roles. “Employing” children under 15 is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The extremist groups denied recruiting children under 18 years old. However, the commanders of FSA said they don’t turn away children of 16-17 when they came to them eager to fight.

“Sixteen, 17 is not young. [If we don’t take him] he’ll go fight on his own,” Abu Rida, leader of the Saif Allah al-Maslool brigade, an FSA group in Daraa, said.


Reuters / Ahmed Saad

Reuters / Ahmed Saad


HRW in its report strongly condemns hiring the teens for fighting, saying that armed groups operating in Syria should publicly commit to end recruitment and use of children under age 18.

“Governments supporting armed groups in Syria need to press these forces to end child recruitment and use of children in combat,” Motaparthy said. “Anyone providing funding for sending children to war could be complicit in war crimes.”

Some armed groups told HRW that they prohibit child recruitment, while others say they still use this practice.

Yet Free Syrian Army commanders told Human Rights Watch they continued to accept children in their ranks: “We would accept them, whatever the age,” said a brigade commander from Jarablus.

HRW’s report, however, for logistical and security reasons, doesn’t cover all the groups that have been reportedly using children for military operations in Syria. It says that several sources proved that teens were also fighting with government troops or pro-government militias.

Disturbing photos show militarization of Israeli children

On 6 May, Israelis celebrated their “independence day,” which they mark according to the Jewish lunar calendar.

An Israeli boy wearing a military vest throws a mock grenade during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014. (Gali Tibbongali / AFP)

An Israeli boy wearing a military vest throws a mock grenade during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014. (Gali Tibbongali / AFP)

Traditionally Israeli Jews hold public celebrations and picnics, especially in “national parks” typically built over the ruins of ethnically cleansed and destroyed Palestinian villages.

Meanwhile, with broad support from the Israeli Jewish public, Palestinian public commemorations of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine – can be punished by law.

Many of the Israeli festivities are celebrations of the so-called “Israel Defence Forces,” better known to Palestinians as the army that occupies them, arrests and kills their children with impunity and helps settlers to steal their land.

An Israeli child holds a rocket launcher as another holds her doll during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014. (Gali Tibbongali / AFP)

An Israeli child holds a rocket launcher as another holds her doll during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 66th anniversary of Israel’s “independence” at the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on 6 May 2014. (Gali Tibbongali / AFP)

Some of these disturbing images of Israeli children being put through military-style training displays at Efrat, an illegal Israeli colony in the occupied West Bank, have been circulating widely online and were published in Haaretz and other media.

A repeated theme of pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian propaganda is to circulate images ofPalestinian children taking part in such militarized displays in order to advance the belief that Palestinian culture is inherently violent and “teaches children hate” and that therefore Israeli violence is a justified defensive response.

But these pictures are remarkable because they reveal the extent to which Israeli culture has been militarized and how Israeli children are not immune to this – a key theme in Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath.

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UN report censures rising child abuse cases by terrorist groups in Syria

The UN has revealed more cases of child abuse in war-stricken Syria, criticising foreign-backed militants for recruiting refugee children in bordering countries.

UN report censures rising child abuse cases by terrorist groups in Syria

“The suffering endured by the children in the Syrian Arab Republic since the outset of the conflict, as documented in this report, is unspeakable and unacceptable,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in the report. The report is dated January 27, but was only posted online on Tuesday.

It looks at the timeframe between March 1, 2011 and November 15, 2013, and includes detailed accounts of the foreign-backed militants committing grave violations against children.

The UN has reported and blamed the militants for child abuse cases in the past, but this is the first report revealing that the situation is worsening in the region. The organization has raised the issue of the increasing recruitment of children for terrorist combat operations.

“Of particular concern were cases of recruitment or attempted recruitment of children within refugee populations in neighboring countries. The majority of incidents were related to recruitment by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups or other armed groups,” Ban said.

The report identifies the lack of education and job opportunities as leading causes for the increasing recruitment of children.

“Interviews with children and their parents indicated that the loss of parents and relatives, political mobilization and peer pressure from families and communities, contributed to the involvement of children with FSA-affiliated groups,” the report said.

The Syrian refugee situation has been severe since protests against the Syrian government, which started in March 2011, grew into a full-scale war. It is estimated that more than two million people, mostly women and children, have fled the country.

Other abuses included: “beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shocks, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives.”

The United Nations estimates that the violence in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people, including more than 10,000 children.


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Child exploitation by ISIL terror group in Syria war

The notorious al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has lately released a video footage of a young child proclaiming membership in the radical militant gang, raising suspicions that the terror group is also engaged in child abuse practices.
The short footage shows an ISIL element asking the 3-year-old child, after he fires away a Kalashnikov rifle, about his identity and what he is doing in the war-ravaged Syria. It seems obvious from the type of questions and the child’s responses that they were previously rehearsed.
Responding to the question, the 3-year-old identifies himself as “Abubakr Al-Baghdadi” and a member of the ISIL terrorist group. He further states that he is from the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan. The development comes as international organizations have published numerous reports regarding the abuse of children in war zones by armed groups in Syria.