Thursday, February 2, 2017

ISIS, Child Soldiers and Islamic Schools

Victoria Kincaid

ISIS, Child Soldiers and Islamic Schools

While ISIS ransacks the Middle East and the intolerable fundamentalist Muslim communities in Western cities are ignored by the Left, Muslim children suffer immeasurably. They will continue to suffer until the Western world finally recognises that the underlying problem is Islam

isis kid smallThe subjugation and exploitation of women and girls in Islam is well publicised. The moderate factions promote the sexual shaming of women under the guise of “modesty” by the hijab, niqab and burqa. The extremists conduct the increasingly prolific sex-slave trade of Yazidi women as a recruiting tool for the Islamic State. It is no secret that Islam is the most misogynistic institution in the world. However, what is not widely considered is the appalling treatment of children under Islam. The Left will cover its ears and insist child abuse is a global phenomenon, not attached to any particular ideology. But child abuse in the Muslim world occurs for reasons that are Islamic, rather than universal. Its purpose is not only to disempower, but to brainwash.

There is a calculated endeavour by Muslim conservatives and extremists to exploit children of both genders. They use children to project fundamentalist Islamic ideals into the future. Little girls are not the sole recipients of physical and psychological abuse in the name of Islam, such as beatings by male relatives, and the ever-present horror of genital mutilation. Little boys, both in radical and so-called “moderate” Islam, are also suffering.

The most extreme issue facing boys under Islam is the recruitment of child soldiers by the Islamic State. A series of photographs and videos released in 2015 and 2016 featuring children as young as four or five years old, depicted either watching or conducting gruesome acts of war, has propelled this epidemic into the spotlight. The Islamic State has dubbed these child-warriors “the Cubs of the Caliphate”.

A study by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) in February 2016 has analysed photographs and videos released by IS between January 2015 and January 2016 eulogising eighty-nine “martyred” child recruits. Mia Bloom, John Hogan and Charlie Winter, who conducted the study, have concluded that the number of child soldiers significantly exceeds previous estimates. They assert that while the phenomenon of child soldiers is by no means new, the Islamic State’s use of prepubescent recruits is different from that of other violent Islamist organisations such as the Taliban, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“What this database points to is the fact that use of children is far more normalized,” Winter revealed when interviewed about the study. “They are not just being used to shock people in execution videos.

They are being used for their operational value as well. This is something that sadly we have to expect to increase and accelerate as the situation becomes more precarious for ISIS in the years to come.”

IS’s prolific use of children in its ranks indicates the group has a long-term purpose in mind: to indoctrinate another generation of fighters into the extremist regime. This will enable potentially thousands of heavily indoctrinated children to continue the battle for the Caliphate for decades to come.

The data suggests the mobilisation of young boys and teenagers for military purposes is increasing:

On a month-by-month basis, the rate of young people dying in suicide operations rose, from six in January 2015 to 11 in January 2016. The rate of operations involving one or more child or youth is likewise increasing; there were three times as many suicide operations involving children and youth in January 2016 as the previous January. It seems plausible that, as military pressure against the Islamic State has increased in recent months, such operations … are becoming more tactically attractive. They represent an effective form of psychological warfare—to project strength, pierce defences, and strike fear into enemy soldiers’ hearts. We can expect that, as their implementation increases, so too will the reported rate of child and youth deaths.

Boys as young as eight are recruited, fed information on weaponry and ways of war, and thrust onto the battlefield. Some boys are from the Yazidi religious minority who have been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. They are then sent to camps and subjected to brutal training regimes.

Reports of gruelling physical drills and beatings are rife. In early 2016, reports revealed an incident of children being threatened with rape if they did not submit to the Islamic State’s authority.

As part of their education, boys are made to watch videos of beheadings, and other forms of execution such as crucifixions. Some children are forced to give blood to injured fighters or to spy for them, and others are made to whip prisoners. Upon graduation, they are granted the privilege of beheading a sheep, or sometimes a human hostage.

Twelve-year-old Nasir, who managed to escape, gives a harrowing account:

There were 60 of us. The scariest times for us all were when the airstrikes happened. They’d lead all of us underground into the tunnels to hide.
They told us the Americans, the unbelievers, were trying to kill us but they, the fighters, they loved us. They would look after us better than our parents. When they were training us they would tell us our parents were unbelievers and that our first job was to go back to kill them.

Another escapee is eleven-year-old Nouri, who was abducted along with his family, and taken to the IS camp in Tel Aafar in northern Iraq. When he refused to go for training, Islamic State fighters broke his leg in three places:

They asked us to come with them for the training. At first we refused to go because we were afraid. They asked me to go to the mountain and I refused again, then they broke my leg. That saved me. The other children were taken by force.

Fortunately, his broken leg rendered him useless to the soldiers, and they allowed his grandmother to take him home. His little brother Saman was also released. At only five years old, constant beatings at the hands of the fighters have rendered him psychologically traumatised. During the night, he wakes screaming, and is now prone to seizures.

Another boy, known only as Mohammed, has revealed the ordeal he suffered when at the age of thirteen he was placed in an IS training camp. When his father tried to protest, he was threatened with beheading, and was not allowed to visit his son. Mohammed says:

For 30 days we woke up and jogged, had breakfast, then learned the Koran and the Hadith of the Prophet. Then we took courses on weapons, Kalashnikovs and other light military stuff.
We saw a young man who did not fast for Ramadan, so they crucified him for three days, and we saw a woman being stoned because she committed adultery.

However, not all children are taken by force. Other Muslim boys are lured into the ranks from the streets of Raqqa, Mosul, Deir al-Zour and other IS-conquered territories. According to Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Syrian connected to the activist group called “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”, IS throws parties for children as a bid to persuade them to join the cause:

Boys it’s affecting a lot. They see all the time guns and calls for jihad. So they love to go. Sometimes they think it’s a game, so they love to go and do these things. It’s very familiar to see a lot of children carrying AK-47s. Sometimes the gun is taller than the kid.

A documentary released by VICE News depicts scenes in Raqqa as soldiers hold street parties, handing out soft drinks and sweets to beguile Muslim boys. “I’d like to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and kill with them, because they kill infidels and apostates,” says one pre-teen.

Others, equally young, are shown brandishing the black flag of IS, holding weapons and listening intently to addresses given by higher-ranked officials in mosques. All too quickly, their young and malleable minds are convinced they will have more opportunities, and indeed more fun, with the Islamic State than anywhere else. These boys will be instructed not just in the art of warfare, but immersed fully in the jihadist ideology.

Along with indoctrinating boys in training camps, the Islamic State has also closed and reopened a number of schools in Syria and Iraq, teaching a curriculum in which violence is normalised and sharia law is all-encompassing. “They are making these books for propaganda, sending the message to foreign fighters that we have books, we have schools, that your kids will have education,” Raqqawi revealed to Business Insider.

According to an Iraqi historian who reports for MosulEye under a pseudonym, IS made every attempt to set up a solid blueprint for an education system after city was conquered:

[The education emir] sees that the age a child must start his education at is the age of 4 years. At this age, the child learns how to read and write, and by the age of 5 years, the child starts to learn the alphabets of monotheism, then [they] teach the child the Arabic language more heavily to be able to understand the Quran correctly and accurately. Then, at the age of 10, the child starts his [sharia] education until the age of 15 years old. At the age of 15, the young student then starts to learn how to use weaponry and electronic technology and then it is determined which field the young student must be directed to complete his studies after presenting the student before an evaluation committee to evaluate the student’s capabilities and qualifications and the field under ISIL’s rule Soft Resistance and Civil Disobedience the student will excel at.

Weapons training is also included in the Islamic State’s elementary-school curriculum. Dress codes are strict: girls as young as six are reportedly forced to wear the niqab. Violence is quickly normalised for children of IS schools, right down to their textbooks. Images of an Islamic State textbook were circulated by IS-affiliated channels on the secure-messaging app Telegram late last year. The equations were filled with images of guns, tanks and bombs, beside ordinary items such as cherries. A new report from Jacob Olidort of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy examines these textbooks. Olidort explains that the content can be broken down into two tiers:

The first tier refers to how the group treats traditional subjects of religious study—the Quran, hadith, creed, and law—all defining features of Islamic faith and practice.
The second has to do with other subjects—physical preparedness, history, geography, and mathematics—all of which are incidental to Islamic identity but central to training the “citizens” of their state project.

In addition, the textbooks emphasise the difference between “the people of unbelief” (non-Muslims) and “hypocrites” (Muslims who are Westernised, or who do not support the Islamic State).

Geography is taught from the perspective of IS, rather than as the Western world understands it; children are taught that the Islamic Caliphate spreads far across the Middle East. Children also study in mosques, the focus being IS’s rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of sharia law. As a result, an entire generation of children in territories held by the Islamic State risks growing up with no education other than IS’s radical curriculum. Raqqawi says:

It’s like these kids are a time bomb. It’s not just a problem for Syria, it’s a problem for the whole region. We don’t know where these kids will go, what they will do.
They [IS] want to make [it seem] like everything in [the children’s] life is about weapons and explosions and war and fighting for Islam. Their main idea is to recruit these children and make them into what they want. Small children, you can control them, you can shape them how you want. Some people don’t like ISIS at all but when they force them to go to these Sharia courses they change a lot … It’s really shocking how they’re playing with people’s minds.

So what makes the regime of child soldiers under the Islamic State unique? While Leftist apologists will dilute the severity of the problem by drawing misguided, irrelevant parallels with child soldiers in Africa, and outdated historical examples of adolescent militants from thousands of years ago, the reality is the Cubs of the Caliphate are recruited for reasons that cater not only to practicality, but to Islamic ideology.


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