The Islamic State has 1,500 child soldiers fighting in Iraq and Syria, many of whom are forcibly converted, drugged, and made to behead nonbelievers to prove their allegiance to ISIS, Der Spiegel reports.
ISIS calls its child soldiers “lion cubs of the caliphate” and has deployed them on suicide bombing missions in the past. ISIS routinely beats and imprisons refugee children before brainwashing them into their radical ideology. The terrorist group also reportedly forces them to donate gallons of blood to replenish foreign fighters throughout territory they control.
Younger children are first put into religious schools, while older boys are directly sent to military training camps. In the military camps, children as young as eight or nine are taught to behead prisoners, and are made to sleep on mattresses infested with fleas. One child who initially resisted ISIS’s teaching, told Der Spiegel he was taken to the battlefield to witness a beheading and was told by a fighter, “We will kill you, too, unless you convert.”
In November 2015, PBS Frontline visited ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan and discovered the group was indoctrinating children in the territory it controlled. ISIS currently maintains affiliates in a dozen countries that mimic the child soldier recruiting tactics of its parent caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS also encourages would-be recruits to bring their children with them. These children are often taken from their parents, along with orphans living under ISIS territory, and moved to secure schooling locations. ISIS relies heavily on child suicide bombers as a first line of defense against the Iraqi Security Forces.
ISIS encourages mass rape amongst its fighters, who currently hold nearly 20,000 women as sex slaves. ISIS wants its fighters to produce as many children as possible in order to bolster its caliphate and fighting force.
British Researchers who study ISIS propaganda noted to Der Spiegel that ISIS’s use of children is meant to convey to its enemies, “No matter what you do, we are raising a radicalized generation here.”
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