Post link 02 June 2015, 14:01
By Eilish O'Gara 6/1/15 at 5:39 PM
A screenshot from a video released by the Islamic State, showing children training in "Cub Camps" in Syria and Iraq.Screenshot from video

Isis has reportedly captured 500 Iraqi refugee children and is training them to become foot soldiers, spies and even suicide bombers. It is thought that the children have been transported to Isis training bases or so-called "Cub Camps" in Iraq and Syria.

The children, who are said to be aged between 12 and 15, were taken from their schools and neighbourhoods in the towns of Ar Rutba, Al-Qaim, Anah, and Rawa in the Diyala and Anbar provinces of Iraq. Though reports indicate the group has been sourcing children from Syria for some time, these children are the first large group to be taken from inside Iraq.

Reports of the abductions came on the same day that the deputy minister of the Iraqi Migration and Displacement Ministry confirmed the number of displaced civilians in the regions plagued by conflict between Isis and security forces had reached three million.

400 children were reportedly taken from their schools and neighbourhoods in the western province of Anbar whilst another 100 were taken from the eastern governorate of Diyala. Diyala's provincial police chief lieutenant general Kasim Al-Saidi said that Isis "has recruited about 100 children under the age of 16," and that he believes the group "are going to brainwash the kids into being suicide bombers."

Dr Natasha Underhill, an expert on terrorism in the Middle East at Nottingham Trent University, told Newsweek, that "the recruitment of children is very common for all terrorists groups, as it is easy to indoctrinate children and brainwash them into an ideology". She also highlighted the fact that as the group look to the future, Isis will be keen to radicalise and train children in order for them to continue their jihad.

Underhill went on to say that because children can get into places that adults can't get into, "Isis will use them for the worst sorts of positions, putting them on the front lines of their operations and making them carry out suicide bombings", and said that though unconfirmed, there have been reports that two young fighters, aged 9 and 12, have been killed already this year while fighting for Isis.

Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch's special advisor in the Children's Rights Division confirmed children have joined Isis in droves. However, he told Newsweek that not all children are forced to join the group and that some will have volunteered to join Isis. "When you're destitute and you have lost your family and home, the promise of power, upward mobility and even money is attractive."

He says he has even witnessed children being sent to the camps by their own parents in Syria and Iraq, and that Isis will often offer parents money in exchange for their children. Abraham claims that in "territories controlled by Isis, the group's levers of influence are huge," especially on poorer parents who have no money and no other means to get by.

There are also several cases where foreign fighters have brought their children with them to Iraq and Syria. Human Rights Watch claims to have followed one particular case in which a fighter from Kosovo travelled to Syria and took his young son with him.

The recruitment of children is by no means a new phenomenon for Isis. Children have been appearing in Isis propaganda videos since around October 2014.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Isis had recruited at least 400 children over the winter of 2014. These Syrian children, dubbed the original "'Cubs of the Caliphate," received military training, lessons in handling and activating guns and religious theology lessons.

In analysis of videos and pictures of the so-called "Cub Camps", the majority of children featured seemed to be boys. However, according to Abrahams, Isis are also keen to lure girls to join them too. He says that although there hasn't been any indication of the forced recruitment of girls for fighting purposes, they may well be taken in order to have children with Isis fighters.

In January, Isis released a seven-minute video showing the execution of two Russian spies by a young fighter claiming to have come from Kazakhstan. The video also contained footage of hundreds of other children, ranging from toddlers to young teens, attending classes about Shariah law, reciting the Quran and receiving military training from older fighters hailing from a variety of different european countries, including France, the UK and Canada.

Syria Deeply, a website dedicated to reporting from within Syria spoke to a young boy named Mohammed who had escaped from one of the training groups in Raqqa last year. He said he had spent his summer learning how to behead dolls with large knives given to him by his Isis supervisors.

Mohammed claimed that "older kids were asked to show the rest of the group how to decapitate dolls. Anyone who failed to perform the task was punished." The children also attended daily classes which taught Isis' notoriously brutal interpretation of Sharia law.

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