Quilliam, a London counter-extremism think-tank has released results of an investigation into how ISIS recruits children and trains them for jihad through indoctrination both at home and in school. In a report called Children of Islamic State, the thin tank says that more than 31,000 pregnant women living in the so-called Islamic State are being used to create the next generation of terrorists.
The report, which has been also been endorsed by the UN, says that ISIS regards children as better and more lethal fighters than adults. Rather than being converted into radical ideologies, they are a “blank slate” which allows them to have extreme values indoctrinated from birth. Techniques to normalize brutality include encouraging children to play football with decapitated heads.
Researchers said that boys learn from a rigid ISIS curriculum, churning out memorized verses of the Quran and attending ‘Jihadist training’ – which involves shooting, martial arts and weaponry. Girls, however, are known as the ‘pearls of the caliphate’ and must remain veiled, hidden, confined to the home, and taught to look after husbands.
Nikita Malik, a senior researcher at Quilliam says that there’s a systematic creation of the next generation of mujahideen – the next generation of fighters. According to her, the fact that 31,000 women are now pregnant “shows it’s not being done randomly in any way, this is a very long-term preparation for these children to grow up with severe religious, theological and national indoctrination.”
She said: “What we found very interesting was the reasons why this army is being created. Firstly, children are a completely blank slate and so don’t have the cognitive abilities or the adult decision-making processes, so they can be manipulated because they are vulnerable to do all kinds of things.
“The families play a key role in doing this as well. Mothers play a key role: they read story books on martyrdom to their children at night. The families are teaching them what is right and wrong. This purity angle is very interesting.”
Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam, added: “This is one of the gravest situations on earth. Children are the key to the future. Indoctrination in Islamic State begins at birth, and increases in schools and training camps. Children are instructed in a particular interpretation of shari’a, desensitised to violence, and learn specific skills to take up the banner of jihad.”
The extraordinary report on children in the ‘caliphate’ adds that from August 2015 to February 2016, 254 instances of children being used in Isis propaganda were recorded. In the last six months, such material has depicted 12 child executioners, with one participating in a public execution.