ISIS has been pulling a young generation into its quest to take over a large portion of the Middle East, operating “Jihad Schools” where young children are taught how to behead enemies and use AK-47 rifles.
The Islamist militant group has been circulating videos and images of its efforts to train children under the age of 10 to become jihadists, which a UN human rights council has called a war crime.
“At the camps, the children recruited received weapons training and religious education,” a report from the UN read. “The existence of such camps seems to indicate that ISIS systematically provides weapons training for children. Subsequently, they were deployed in active combat during military operations, including suicide-bombing missions.”
One video posted to YouTube shows this “School of Jihad,” with a voice-over in Arabic boasting that the young “cubs” are growing strong in their faith. ISIS, which has utilized social media in its campaign, has also shard pictures of young children seemingly prepared for battle.
أشبال التوحيد تخرجوا من مدرسة الجهاد لا مدرسه سبيس تون!! #الدولة_الإسلامية pic.twitter.com/94eL8RTTv6
— يـمنية موحده☝#قادمون (@Hano1_4) October 21, 2014
Experts say they are worried for the younger generations in Iraq and Syria, where many fighters under the age of 15 have joined the front lines.
“The sight of armed and masked men on stage ‘educating’ young boys is obviously a distressing one,” said Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s campaign manager for Syria. “These supposedly ‘inspirational’ videos are actually fresh evidence that ISIS is cruelly robbing an untold number of young people of their childhood, brainwashing them and almost certainly exposing them to terrible dangers.
“Children should never be involved in the fighting in Syria and Iraq — or anywhere else for that matter — even if they volunteer, and even if they’re acting in an auxiliary capacity such as delivering messages or other non-combat tasks.”
Children as young as eight are sent to the Jihad Schools, with ISIS paying their families for the child’s attendance. After graduating these children are not allowed to return to their families, but rather are sent to combat areas, and even suicide bombing missions.