“The stories coming from Iraq show an organised and structured military training which aims to cultivate an army of loyal warriors who are ideologically pure for the future Caliphate.”
You can see them in the front row during public beheadings and crucifixions carried in Raqqa and all the cities under the control of ISIS. They are used for blood transfusions when fighters of the Islamic State are injured. They are paid to spy and are trained to become suicide bombers without hesitation. Are the Children of the Caliphate, the future soldiers of ISIS’s envisaged caliphate?
Mohammad is a spy, a 14-years-old used by jihadists to listen in the markets and streets of Mosul reporting when someone breaks the rules. In exchange for his collaboration and loyalty, he benefits financially from each tip. Omar is one of the many young people who helped to maintain ISIS’s intelligence network in the territory under the control of the group between Iraq and Syria.
In contrast, there is Omar, whose refusal to enlist in the ranks of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi resulted in the removal of his hand and foot intended to send as a clear warning to all other teenagers who thought differently from the militia. The horrible message is a reminder to those aged sixteen and over who are expected to serve the Caliphate as spies, fighters and suicide bombers. ISIS continues to indoctrinate and train thousands of children and adolescents in the territories under its control and invests huge sums in the military training and ideological induction of children to shape the next generation of jihadists.
According to rumours across the Arab media, the children of the Caliphate would be trained to become spies in their homes and family, gathering information on relatives and parents who do not support Baghdadi’s militia. This dehumanising process results in the removal of an individual, personal feelings which are considered as weaknesses should they take precedence or oppose the general objective of the creation of the Caliphate.
According to data collected by international media thousands of teenagers have been brainwashed for a messianic ideology and megalomaniacal inspiration with a clear and well-defined political and military strategy.
And this isn’t only a male prerogative. Even young girls have a strategic role in ISIS’s war machine. Testimonies revealed children have been indoctrinated from primary school to seek death as their religious duty. The stories which are picked reveal an organised and structured military training process that aims to cultivate an army of loyal warriors and an ideologically pure generation of supporters for the future of the Caliphate.
Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch, interviewed several members of Iraq’s Yezidi community who escaped capture by ISIS. According to his reports, many have reported seeing militiamen separate the boys from their families to send them to schools for indoctrination and military training.
Vice News produced a report from Raqqa, the capital of ISIS. This documentary on life inside the city dominated by the group was chilling as the second of the special episode focused predominantly on the way ISIS manipulated and trained children through public performances and repeated sermons. One man declared during the reportage: “We believe that this generation of children is one of the Caliphate. God willing, this generation will fight the infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies.”
To monitor the whole system a network of former military and intelligence officers keep a close eye on civilians, collaborators and dissidents. Many of these officers were previously worked with Saddam Hussein’s fearsome Da’irat al Mukhabarat al Amah, the internal services of the former dictator and his Ba’athist party. The officers of Saddam have been and continue to be a powerful part of the strength of ISIS structure and operations and played a crucial role in the victories of the group in 2014. Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who spent years opposing Saddam, recently revealed that former Ba’athists equipped the militia with massive know-how, especially in the field of intelligence. “They know who is who, by clans, name by name.”
Saddam’s former intelligence officers moved into ISIS’s internal affairs and created a sub-state apparatus that sees the indoctrination of children as its lifeblood and long-term guarantor of war against the West, takfiri Arab regimes and leaders, and Shiites. The convergence of the interests between jihadists and members of the former Ba’athist party has catalysed the conversion of thousands of these military forces. This has significantly strengthened ISIS and its inner circle’s strategy, sharpened its tactics and strengthened the process of nation-building in Iraq. They have become an indispensable part of the self-proclaimed caliphate’s survival.