IS 'recruits hundreds of child fighters in Syria'

IS 'recruits hundreds of child fighters in Syria'
Analysis: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that the Islamic State group has enlisted at least 400 children since the beginning of the year.
3 min read
24 March, 2015
A child soldier from Kazakhstan appeared in the first video
In a recent murder video from rebel-held territory in Syria a young boy, no older that 14, stares at the camera before appearing to shoot his kneeling captive in the forehead.

The child soldier had moments before been praised by his adult accomplice as belonging to the "Lion Cubs of the Caliphate".

This is the second video in which the Islamic State group has touted its child executioners. The first, released in mid-January, shows a young boy believed to be from Kazakhstan purportedly shooting dead two men accused of spying for Russia. 

The videos are part of a carefully choreographed propoganda machine but they provide an insight into the ongoing recruitment, indoctrination and training of child soldiers by the extremist militia.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 400 children have been drawn into IS ranks this year alone, and documents offices being set up specifically to recruit "Lion Cubs of the Caliphate". 

Rami Abdurrahman, the founder of the activist group, told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "Pure and simply, they brainwash them. They say to these kids, 'look at the regime, who kills indiscriminately, and the Kuffar [non believers], they can never offer you a better life. You need to join the IS'."

According to the observatory, the IS recruits near schools, mosques and in public areas where it carries out killings and brutal punishments on local people.

The activists say children are sometimes taken without their families' approval, but the group also petitions parents and guardians to encourage their young to join their ranks and reportedly offers financial and material incentives. 

Children receive hardline religious indoctrination to inculcate a hatred of others who do not adhere to their ideology and military training to prepare them for the battlefied, according to the observatory.
     They want to create the impression that there is a young generation that believes in the caliphate

The activist group recently documented that IS sent a battalion consisting of some 140 members, the majority of whom were under the age of 18, to the battlefronts in the city of Kobane, where the deaths of six child fighters were recorded.  

Unlike other hardline militias fighting in Syria, such as the Nusra Front, IS relies heavily on foreign fighters, with the majority of them entering via Turkey.

In recent months western nations have been pressing Turkey to stymie the flow of foreign fighters, due to security fears that a portion of them will likely return radicalised, battle hardened and intent on carrying out attacks.

To replace those foreigners dissuaded or prevented from making it to IS territory the militia is bolstering its recruitment base with local children.

The poster boys of the IS propaganda machine were for a while the western fighters speaking with accents from the streets of London or the Paris banlieue, but children are a new face to the facade that the militia chooses to reveal to the world.  

"They want to create the impression that despite all the troubles they are facing there is a young generation that believe in the caliphate and is willing to kill and die for it," said Abdurrahman.