Cubs of the Caliphate: ISIL’s Use of Child Soldiers
15 October 2020
Cecilia Polizzi, Founding President/CEO at CRTG Working Group
Sareta Ashraph, Director of the Office of Field Investigations at United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability Against Da’esh/ISIL Crimes (UNITAD)
The Islamic State has changed the nature of child participation in armed conflict and terrorism. Reportedly, boys under eighteen years of age have been executed—either beheaded or shot—for suspected affiliation with other armed groups, and torture, mass forced enslavement and sexual violence have been practiced against girls as young as ten years old, mostly from the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq. However, children have not only been extensively targeted by the group but they also witnessed and perpetrated IS executions.The tactical benefits in using children as an effective form of psychological warfare were combined with the group’s intention to prioritize children as a vehicle to propagate its dogma through future generations. The group’ ambition to create and impose a new socio-political order depended on children as a mean to realize its perspectives of longevity. The recruitment of children by the Islamic State has been therefore deliberate, calculated, purposeful and systematic, imposing of dogma and barbarity on innocent children and constituting enormous challenges to the pursuit of accountability and justice, rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.