Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 24th 2014 Contents A34
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, November 24, 2014
weapons stand at checkpoints and
busy intersections in Iraq s second-
largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the
left arms of their black uniforms are
the logos of the Islamic Police.
In Raqqa, the Islamic State group s
de facto capital in Syria, boys attend
training camp and religious courses
before heading off to fight. Others serve
as cooks or guards at the extremists
headquarters or as spies, informing on
people in their neighbourhoods.
Across the vast region under IS con-
trol, the group is actively conscripting
children for battle and committing
abuses against the most vulnerable at
a young age, according to a growing
body of evidence assembled from res-
idents, activists, independent experts
and human rights groups.
In the northern Syrian town of Kobani,
where ethnic Kurds have been resisting
an IS onslaught for weeks, several
activists told The Associated Press they
observed children fighting alongside the
militants. Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based
activist, said he saw the bodies of four
boys, two of them younger than 14. And
at least one 18 year old is said to have
carried out a suicide attack.
In Syria s Aleppo province, an activist
affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army
said its fighters encountered children in
their late teens "fairly often" in battles
against the rival Islamic State group.
It is difficult to determine just how
widespread the exploitation of children
is in the closed world of IS-controlled
territory. There are no reliable figures
on the number of minors the group
But a United Nations panel investi-
gating war crimes in the Syrian conflict
concluded that in its enlistment of chil-
dren for active combat roles, the Islamic
State group is perpetrating abuses and
war crimes on a massive scale "in a
systematic and organised manner."
The group "prioritises children as a
vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty,
adherence to their ideology and a cadre
of devoted fighters that will see violence
as a way of life," it said in a recent
report. The panel of experts, known as
the Independent International Com-
mission of Inquiry on Syria, conducted
more than 300 interviews with people
who fled or are living in IS-controlled
areas, and examined video and photo-
The use of children by armed groups
in conflict is, of course, nothing new.
In the Syrian civil war, the Free Syrian
Army and Nusra Front rebel groups also
recruit children for combat, said Leila
Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general s
special representative for children and
But no other group comes close to
IS in using children in such a systematic
and organised way. And the effect is
that much greater because IS commands
large areas in which the militants incul-
cate the children with their radical and
violent interpretation of Shariah law.
"What is new is that ISIS seems to
be quite transparent and vocal about
their intention and their practice of
recruiting children," said Laurent Cha-
puis, UNICEF regional child protection
adviser for the Middle East and North
Africa, using an alternate acronym for
the group. "Children as young as ten,
12 years old are being used in a variety
of roles, as combatants as messengers,
spies, guards, manning checkpoints but
also for domestic purposes like cooking,
cleaning, sometimes providing medical
care to the wounded."
"This is not a marginal phenomenon.
This is something that is being observed
and seems to be part of the strategy of
the group," Zerrougui said in a phone
interview from New York.
She said some children join volun-
tarily for various reasons but others are
"They are abducting children and
forcing them to join, they are brain-
washing children and indoctrinating
them to join their group. All the tools
used to attract and recruit children are
used by this group," she said, adding
that children as young as nine or ten
are used for "various roles."
In areas of Syria and Iraq under their
control, the Sunni extremists have
closed schools or changed the curricu-
lum to fit with their ideology. Their
goal, according to the UN, is to use
education as a tool of indoctrination to
foster a new generation of supporters.
A video recently published by an IS
media arm shows what it says is a grad-
uation ceremony for boys, who appear
to be in their teens. Dressed in military
uniforms, they are lined up to shake
hands with a sheikh. Another scene
shows the boys posing with AK-47s,
their faces hidden under black masks.
The video touts the children as a "gen-
eration of lions, protectors of religion,
dignity and land."
Residents of IS-controlled areas said
the militants are teaching children at
school to become fighters.
One resident in the Iraqi city of Fal-
lujah described seeing his six-year-old
son playing with a water pistol in front
of the house and screaming: "I am a
fighter for the Islamic State!"
broke the gun in two pieces," said the
man, who spoke on condition of
anonymity out of fear of his life.
He also said he and his son recently
stopped at an IS checkpoint. His son
shouted, "We love the State!" and one
of the fighters asked, "Which state?"
When the son replied, "the Islamic
State," the fighter "told him, Good boy,
and let us through," the resident said.
The incident persuaded the man to
move his family to the northern city of
Kirkuk, now in Kurdish hands.
"The boys are studying, not to learn,
but to become mujahedeen," he said.
In this undated image
posted online and made
available by Raqqa Is
Silently, an anti-Islamic
State group organisation,
a child wearing a hat
with the Islamic State
group logo poses with a
weapon in Raqqa, Syria.
The image has been
verified and is consistent
with other AP reporting.
Across the vast region in
Syria and Iraq that is part
of the Islamic State
caliphate, children are
being inculcated with the
extremist group's radical
interpretation of Shariah
law. AP PHOTO
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