Child Soldiers of the Caliphate

By Evan Williams
Evan Williams is a TV news and current affairs reporter, presenter and producer. See full profile

It’s the cruelty that haunts me.

isis4It’s the fact that grown men could disfigure a 14-year-old boy the way they did in the name of a religious state and leave him in driving pain, poverty and despair for the rest of his life that I find the most upsetting.

These kinds of punishments have not been unknown, of course, but I had imagined they had been lost to the mists of the medieval period. Then again I think that’s the point.

He was tied down and hacked at as a deliberate and clear warning to other children and teenagers not to resist ISIS and to remind them that by age 16 they are all expected to join the ISIS army in some form, either as spies and supporters or fighters.

This is the story of how ISIS is indoctrinating thousands of young children under its control with its extreme doctrine and putting them through rigorous military and psychological training to become the next generation of ISIS shock troops.

The testimonies we gathered from children who had all been first hand witnesses to different stages in this process indicate a frightening potential change in the future military map of the Middle East.

If we consider that ISIS has around four million people under its control and that they are actively recruiting, indoctrinating and training the large proportion of teenage boys within that population the true potential scale is staggering.

But it’s not just boys. We also speak to a woman who was until a few weeks before we met her a teacher within ISIS who mentally prepared girls as young as ten to seek death as their religious duty.

She said she and other teachers were instructing the girls that they should rush to die for ISIS because they should – and will – all die martyrs engaged in jihad.

Most shockingly of all we heard how children as young as eight have already become suicide bombers for ISIS

Most shockingly of all we heard how children as young as eight have already become suicide bombers for ISIS – and how many children not much older are rushing to volunteer for these missions after being subjected to a relentless display of ISIS suicide attacks and violence both on large screens in town squares and by being forced to repeatedly witness actual executions.

We are told by children who experienced it, how the indoctrination in what they call “religious military camps” aims to instil an unquestioning commitment to “listening and obeying – even if it means I will die” in the young recruits.

They talk about how they are induced, coerced and bribed to join ISIS and how they are encouraged to inform on relatives and parents who do not support ISIS.

Clearly the testimony reveals an organized, structured military training process that aims to develop what ISIS would see as totally loyal, ideologically pure and unquestioning future warriors.

From the accounts we have received it appears clear this is occurring across the ISIS territory in both Syria and Iraq.

The potential long-term consequences for the region – and beyond – are clear.

The female teacher told us the children are taught that their main target is the “infidel” government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – for now. But she says they have longer-term plans to attack the west when they can – a claim revealed in the virulently anti-west threats featuring through the propaganda films of child soldiers released by ISIS themselves.

Of course, there are many who don’t believe the propaganda or who’s parents provide the right counter balance to their thinking to maintain independent thought until they can get them to safety outside ISIS territory.

Some of these children told how they used to like ISIS until they repeatedly started threatening boys to join and help them. There is a chance much can be stopped or undone.

But as we saw in the punished 14-year-old I referred to earlier, the price for resisting can be far greater than anyone might be prepared to bear, leaving many children with little choice but to sign up as the future foot soldiers and suicide bombers of the Islamic State.



The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund is raising money to provide medical, social and psychological care for “Omar”, the Syrian boy who was permanently maimed by ISIS. Omar-metre

To date over $30 000 has been donated towards a prosthetic hand and foot, education and psychological treatment for the 14-year-old, by people shocked by his ordeal. It’s administered through the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund a nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonreligious organization providing free medical care for sick and injured children from the Middle East. 

If you would like to support his urgent needs you can donate here.

The money will be used for immediate medical needs, prosthetic treatment and an education fund.


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