The ISIS Army That’s Still Unborn

Mar 16, 2016

Photo credit: Baraa Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty

By Maajid Nawaz

There are roughly 5 million children living under the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. As such, it was only a matter of time before the worst terror group of our lifetime set its sights on them.

And now it has.

Working with Child Soldiers Initiative, and endorsed by UNICEF, my counter-extremism organization Quilliam has released a seminal report (PDF) documenting the use of child soldiers by ISIS. This report makes for cruel reading.

The United Nations has received credible but unverified reports suggesting that ISIS has created a youth wing called Fityan al-Islam, meaning boys of Islam. The precedent seems to have been set by the former Baathist regime of Saddam Hussain in Iraq, which in the late 1970s established the Futuwah (Youth Vanguard) movement with the most important Iraqi child soldier units known as Ashbal Saddam, or Saddam’s Lion Cubs.

Apparently after studying the Nazi regime, which created the Hitler Youth, ISIS is now busy training and indoctrinating children en masse. But as with most things ISIS lays its hands on, the group has taken its brutality involving children way beyond anything Hitler or Saddam ever did.

ISIS has abducted between 800 and 900 children ranging between the ages of 9 and 15 from various regions of Mosul city and province. From last August to February, 254 instances of children being used in ISIS propaganda were found. Many are being trained as spies, preachers, soldiers, executioners, and suicide bombers. In counting lessons children tally up guns or tanks instead of apples and oranges. Media outlets within the “caliphate” have issued statements warning that children who refuse to conform with ISIS orders will be flogged, tortured, or raped.

Of particular concern here in the U.K., there are as many as 50 British children subjected to direct ISIS command and control. To our collective horror, some of these have been forced to carry out beheadings or hold up decapitated heads to show they are ready to embrace the “jihad.” In the past six months alone ISIS propaganda has depicted no less than 12 child killers. One recent macabre video showed a 4-year-old British boy apparently detonating a car bomb, killing four alleged spies trapped in the vehicle.

The girls fair no better. While in captivity young women and girls have been taken and raped on a daily basis by ISIS fighters. Most girls are being processed to be molded as wives and mothers of future soldiers. As if shaping an unborn army, estimated 31,000 women living under ISIS rule are pregnant.

Teachers, too, are forced to enlist in this totalitarian social experiment. Four teachers were abducted from a high school in Mosul last January for opposing ISIS, and last March a primary school teacher was executed for criticizing the group.

But it gets worse.

Until now, if we want to make a comparison, the use of child soldiers in Liberia and Angola was restricted to abducting them from their families, and forcing them to fight. What makes ISIS’s use of children more insidious than Hitler’s, Saddam’s, and these African cases, is the active involvement of the families.

Parents have no choice but to comply with ISIS instructions to play a part in brutalizing their children. Mothers are given books by ISIS instructing them on how to raise their offspring for “jihad.” This includes telling bedtime stories about martyrdom, exposing children to graphic content through jihadist websites, and encouraging them to improve their child’s military skills and fitness. Using parents in this way is guaranteed to weaken any emotional resistance a child may naturally have to committing atrocities.


3 comments on “The ISIS Army That’s Still Unborn

  • To play devil’s advocate, the USA killed millions of children, tearing their bodies to pieces by dropping bombs from a high altitude. It is not as theatrical as ISIS, but more deadly.

    The thing that is so infuriating is killing kids benefits no one. We have sick sadists is charge who WANT things this way.

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    NearlyNakedApe says:


    To play devil’s advocate, the USA killed millions of children, tearing their bodies to pieces by dropping bombs from a high altitude. It is not as theatrical as ISIS, but more deadly.

    Sorry Roedy but I think you are confusing “playing devil’s advocate” with “derailing the conversation”. Your comment sounds like an argumentation that would go along these lines:

    Alice: Hitler and the Gestapo deported and murdered 6 million Jews in WW2….. What are your thoughts on that?

    Bob: Well you know, the Allied (RAF and USAAF) fire-bombed Dresden in 1945 and murdered 25,000 people….

    I’m getting tired and a bit frustrated to see how many people think it useful or relevant to bring up the crimes and atrocities perpetrated by the USA every time the crimes and atrocities of ISIS and other Djihadist organizations are being discussed. Are you trying to make the argument that the USA is worse than or just as bad as ISIS?

    Even if we assume that’s the case, then how do the crimes of one justify the crimes of the other? Do you really believe any real progress can be achieved by steering the conversation in that direction?

    This new development in ISIS’s agenda as pointed out by Maajid’s article is jarring. Children have been involved in such schemes before (Joseph Kony’s LRA for eg.) but this takes it to a whole new level. This is the systematic use of psychological and physical torture of children for the the purpose of creating an army of obedient indoctrinated robots who will in turn crush the next generation of children into submission: an infernal meat grinder that feeds on children and spits out monsters.

    Many of those children who can’t withstand the unbelievable emotional and physical torture they are being subjected to will be systematically eliminated. The words monstruous and heart-wrenching come to mind but I’m not sure that they even begin to describe it. Even the atrocities of the Gestapo and the USA are beginning to look pale in comparison to what a caliphate under ISIS would look like.

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