Another reason why the situation in the Middle East is critical. In this long and detailed article children from toddlers to teens are being indoctrinated with the ISIS ideology. The teens soon will be ready to enter the fight. In three years (the current US threshold for “victory”) there will be many more fanatical recruits. Even if ISIS is defeated militarily, these kids will join the tribes and go into the cities. Enforcement of Sharia will be that much more doctrinaire and severe.
How many more muslim fanatics will there be who will willingly commit suicide attacks on Western targets, including the US? If you believe this report, and MEMRI is a very credible source, there will be many. So even if ISIS
Obama has made the choice to allow this to happen.
The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
Islamic State (ISIS) propaganda frequently features children and teens, who are generally referred to as Ashbal (“[lion] cubs”). These youngsters have various roles within the organization. ISIS also provides them with a number of humanitarian services that it heavily promotes, depicting itself as compassionate and humane; these include care for sick or orphaned children. Children are also prime targets for ISIS’s da’wa (Islamic outreach) activities, particularly visibly in 2013 when the organization widely documented many of its public da’wa gatherings.
Children are central to ISIS; they are the future generation of the defenders of the caliphate and they will continue its legacy. ISIS children receive military training, both in camps conducted by the organization and individually, with ISIS fighters. There is little discussion, in the organization and among its supporters, over whether children should be undergoing military training, or even fighting in actual battles. Although there is little documentation of the latter, there is evidence that children are indeed participating in fighting.
In their social media accounts, ISIS supporters proudly present photos of “its” children; in many, they are brandishing weapons. ISIS supporters use such images to prod other Muslims – that is, adults who have not yet done so – to join the jihad. Photos of children reenacting in play some ISIS atrocities, such as the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley, are also widely shared via social media.
In their ISIS environment, children are continuously exposed to ISIS doctrine and actions, and are encouraged to take part in some of those actions. For example, children are often seen among the crowds attending ISIS’s public executions – in some cases, holding ISIS banners mere feet away from the bloody events. Children are also prime targets of the organization’s heavily promoted and constantly expanding Media Points campaign, which consists of booths set up around the caliphate that distribute ISIS content and religious materials and screen ISIS videos around the clock. ISIS children have little chance of avoiding exposure the organization’s doctrine, message, and actions.
Tweet: “[Islamic] State toddler kicking an unbeliever’s head… Woe to you, o unbelievers and apostates from such a generation that got soaked with the love of cutting off the heads and snipping the necks” (Source: Twitter.com/SahawaTN, October 31, 2014)
ISIS celebrates the return to schools in Ninawa, Iraq. Caption: “O Allah, continue upon us the blessing of the caliphate” Source: Justpaste.it/drasa_jaded, November 5, 2014.
This report reviews incidences of children and teens in official and unofficial ISIS publications and releases, in official ISIS social media accounts and social media accounts of ISIS supporters, and in various media reports:
Islamic State Supporters Celebrate ISIS’s Youngest Fighters
Images of children appear regularly in pro-ISIS social media accounts; the posts often express pride in the children. The children’s young age and the jihadi environment in which they are typically shown are aimed at prodding those who haven’t yet joined the jihad to do so. The following are examples of depictions of very young ISIS fighters:
On October 20, 2014, a photo of a little boy identified as Abu Al-‘Abd Al-Shami, and described as the “youngest mujahid in the Islamic State,” was posted on alplatformmedia.com. The child is posed with an AK-47 that is taller than he is, and the caption read: “The youngest mujahid in the Islamic State is the hero Abu Al-‘Abd Al-Shami – May Allah protect our hero and support him.”
On October 7, 2014, images of a boy identified as Abu Ubaida were tweeted (by @ISTimes1); he too was identified as the “youngest fighter in the Islamic State.” The tweet said that he “got martyred” with his father two weeks previously in a U.S. airstrike. A YouTube video marking his death, also dated October 7, said that he had “died against PKK and YPG [forces] in Kobani.” It is not clear whether the boy died while participating in actual battles against the Kurdish forces.
Abu Ubaida’s death was used to encourage others to join ISIS; the tweeted photo below shows the boy aiming a large machine gun, and the tweet (by @is_is120) states “How old are you? What is your excuse? When will you make nafeer? After [the death of] Al-Baghdadi’s cub, [do] you have an excuse!!!!!?!?!?”
The October 7 Abu Ubaida video shows him carrying various weapons. A series of still photos shows him in military uniform and carrying a rifle as he accompanies several fighters, also in uniform; one of them is believed to be his father. In another, Abu Ubaida wears what looks like an explosive vest. Below are stills from the video:
Abu Ubaida (center) carrying a weapon along with other fighters
Abu Ubaida wearing an explosive vest
Another young ISIS fighter, identified in an October 26 tweet (by @OOOc4OOO) as 13-year-old Asadullah Al-Shishani, is described as having gone to the Islamic Caliphate to receive military training so that he could “become a fighter of the caliphate soldiers.”
Suggestions That ISIS Children Fight In Battle
There is little information about children actually fighting in ISIS battles. However, the fact that ISIS children are given military and weapons training, are indoctrinated to fight ISIS’s enemies, and are expected to carry on in the path of the adult mujahideen gives rise to the assumption that they also have some role in assisting military operations.
As noted, children rarely appear in ISIS releases documenting the group’s military achievements. However, they have been spotted in a number of ISIS releases. Below are examples:
Following its takeover of Al-Tabaqa military base in Aleppo, Syria, ISIS released a series of photos of the preparations for the battle. In one, a group of ISIS fighters pray prior to the attack, and a child in military garb is clearly seen among them.
At least one child, and perhaps two children, carrying weapons are seen with a group of ISIS fighters moving near the Tigris River in an October 25, 2014 ISIS video. Below are stills from the video:
Armed child (red arrow) accompanying ISIS fighters
Possible second child (red arrow on left) accompanying ISIS fighters
ISIS Holds Military Training Camp For Cubs
On September 10, 2014, ISIS released photos of the Shaddad Al-Tunisi training camp in Aleppo. According to ISIS, the camp trains, and graduates classes of, “cubs of the Islamic State.” The faces of the participants in the photos are blurred, making it impossible to estimate their ages, but the term “cubs” is used broadly for children and adolescents. Below are images from the Shaddad Al-Tunisi training camp:
Arabic inscription on trainees’ shirts reads: “Shaddad camp”
Children Receiving ISIS Indoctrination At Media Points
In July 2014, ISIS released images of its Media Points – booths scattered across the caliphate that distribute propaganda and religious materials. In Ninawa, Muslims were seen gathered in large groups outside the Media Points, some of which have large screens showing ISIS battle scenes and speeches by ISIS figures. ISIS members also hand out various da’wa materials at the booths; photos released by ISIS show children gathered at the Media Points and holding da’wa pamphlets.
Children carrying da’wa pamphlets in front of a Media Point in Ninawa, Iraq
The Media Points booths are also used as a platform for ISIS members to deliver speeches, to provide food and drinks, and to hand out other materials to anyone stopping by. The booths are open at night as well; below are stills from a recent ISIS video celebrating the opening of a new Media Point in the city of Al-Mayadin in Deir Al-Zour, Syria, attended by a large number of children:
Children crowding around to receive various giveaways at Al-Mayadin Media Point
New Media Point in Al-Mayadin, Syria
Children At ISIS Public Executions
Shari’a enforcement is an integral part of ISIS governance in the areas under its control. ISIS has carried out numerous public executions, often documenting them. The executions are attended by children of all ages.
In October, in the city of Al-Raqqa, Syria, ISIS beheaded two men it accused of blasphemy. Photos of the event posted by ISIS showed children in the crowd of spectators.
Executioner in action, Al-Raqqa, Syria
Children witnessing the beheading
Not only do children attend these executions, they appear to be participants. In September 2014, ISIS published a series of photos of a number of public executions/crucifixions of men accused of apostasy, in the city of Manbij in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. The photos clearly show a large number of children among the spectators. Children also appear to be given front-row seats, often only feet away from the execution. In some of photos, children hold ISIS banners while standing very close to the execution site; in one, a boy carrying a rifle is flanked by two other boys with ISIS banners, and appears to be holding a piece of paper, either reading out the condemned man’s sentence or making some other announcement.
Child with weapon (red arrow) flanked by other children at execution site
ISIS member holding small boy’s hand in front of execution site
ISIS Supporters See Children As Future Generation Of Defenders Of The Caliphate, Further Indoctrinate Them, And Proudly Share Photos Of Them
ISIS supporters often post photos of children and teens brandishing various weapons, typically accompanied by expressions of support for these “cubs.” Other photos show young children, and even toddlers, being exposed to ISIS propaganda. Below are several examples:
On September 3, 2014, ISIS supporter @hebaah2020 posted a photo of two young children in ski masks brandishing a machine gun and a pistol, behind a table covered with grenades and bullets. Commenting on the picture, @hebaah2020 wrote: “Those [children are] the ones who will continue the path after us – Allah willing. #Cubs_of_Caliphate_State.”
On August 3, 2014, Abdul Haafidh, an ISIS fighter who uses the Twitter handle @MjRemind, posted two photos of himself standing with a “pupil” of his – a young boy he was training to use an AK47. The photos, according to the tweet, were taken at a local mosque, believed to be in Syria; the tweet included the hashtag #DontBeAJew.
In the photo below, according to the tweet, the newborn daughter of ISIS female fighter Umm Al-Ammarah watches the ISIS movie Flames Of War. The film, which was released in September 2014, included footage of ferocious battle scenes, as well as executions of Syrian soldiers.
On October 3, 2014, Khadim Al-‘Aqidah posted an image on his Facebook page of himself with a group of masked children brandishing what appeared to be toy machine guns. Khadim Al-‘Aqidah proudly wrote: “A photo of me with my beloved ones, the caliphate’s cubs – the next generation that we prepared to face the enemies of Islam…”‘
The following images were posted on the Facebook page of Ali Zayton. The children in them are believed to be Ali’s nephews, whose father is a French-Moroccan ISIS fighter living in Al-Raqqa. The children are seen smiling while carrying an AK-47.
Children At Play: Reenacting ISIS Beheadings
Children also reenact ISIS activity, such as beheadings of enemies. On August 22, 2014, images of a child acting out the grisly beheading of American photojournalist James Foley were posted on the pro-ISIS Twitter account of Abu Bakr Al-Janabi. The masked child, standing against an ISIS banner and wielding a knife, held a doll dressed in an orange jumpsuit, like Foley at his execution; another photo shows the doll with its head severed and red smears on its neck. The caption read, “And some entertainment for the next generation of Mujaheddin…#ISIS.”
The reenacted-beheading theme is tweeted by others as well. On September 29, 2014, Bint al Saif (@BintelSaif) posted a photo of an orange-garbed doll with head removed and placed on its supine body. Bint al Saif wrote: “Had there been a reason for me to laugh today, then this kid knew what to do. I was asked to babysit a 7-year old…”
Children Participate In Religious Seminars
In September 2014, ISIS held a religious workshop on the topic of tawhid (monotheism) in Deir Al-Zour (renamed by ISIS Wilayat Al-Kheir) in Syria. Photos of the workshop showed two children.
Child taking a test in religious workshop in Deir Al-Zour, Syria
Another child at the workshop.
Islamic State Promotes Services It Provides To Children
On September 3, 2014, ISIS released photos of at least two orphanages it operates in Ninawa, Iraq, including photos of a group of children identified as orphans posing with an ISIS banner.
Orphans holding ISIS banner
On August 12, 2014, ISIS released photos of cancer-stricken children, whom it claimed to be treating. The organization provided no further details as to the nature of the treatment it was providing. Some of the children posed with ISIS banner, and the banner was also seen in other photos in the background. Below are examples:
Child with cancer promotes ISIS
ISIS banner behind a sick girl
*M. Khayat is a research fellow at MEMRI.
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