Al-Qaeda affiliates recruiting child soldiers in Syria

Recent videos spark concern about child recruitment and abuse.

Special to Khabar by Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

February 22, 2014
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A recent spate of videos showing children and teenagers in Syria attending al-Qaeda-linked training camps has raised alarm among activists and observers, who say this practice by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) exploits children and turns them into fighters.

  • In a recent YouTube video, a child fires an AK-47 rifle in an al-Qaeda-linked training camp in Syria. [YouTube]

One video, apparently showing a 4-year-old boy taught to fire a weapon by ISIS fighters, sparked condemnation and calls for immediate action.

The child, who introduces himself as the namesake of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, says he is from Uzbekistan and belongs to ISIS. Men with Gulf accents have him say "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

Devastating effects

In a February 4th report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the suffering of children during the conflict in Syria as "unspeakable and unacceptable".

The recruitment of child soldiers has devastating psychological effects, Egyptian child psychologist and Cairo-based Ain Shams University lecturer Enas al-Jamal said.

"This child grows up on violence and the use of force, while internally suppressing fear that could erupt at any time after he is moved away from the fighting," she said.

Such recruited children need special psychiatric care and rehabilitation, al-Jamal said.

"However, the difficulty in rehabilitation stems from the fact that they were subjected to comprehensive brainwashing that turned them into killing machines, convinced of the legitimacy of murder and suicide via suicide bombings," she said.

Children 'have no choice'

The al-Qaeda camps are an attempt to brainwash children and create a generation taught to use violence in the name of jihad and religion, experts said.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates recruit children for several reasons, said Cairo University psychology professor Waliyuddine Mukhtar.

"The first is that children-- especially those under 10 years of age-- cannot think for themselves. In other words, they are controlled and have no choice," he said. "Thus, saturating them with jihadist ideology and ideas, especially persuading them to carry out suicide operations, is very easy compared to older (recruits).

"As a result, years from now a new generation of youth will emerge and pose a very serious threat not only to Syria, but to surrounding countries as well."

Al-Qaeda affairs specialist Abdul Kareem Ahmed said, "Al-Qaeda's focus on spreading these videos and images carries two messages. The first urges older youth to volunteer to join its ranks. The second brainwashes those who subscribe to its ideology into pushing their children to join the fold under al-Qaeda's banner as soldiers from childhood."

Orphans and the children of foreign fighters

No one can conclusively say anything about the identities of these children or their parents' whereabouts, said Tariq Abdo, co-founder of the group 'No more recruitment or use of children in armed action in Syria'.

But the disappearance of many of the children who lost their parents in opposition-held areas 'increases the likelihood that ISIS recruited them and merged them with other child soldier recruits at al-Zarqawi's Cubs camp,' Abdo said. These groups also recruit the children of jihadists, including the children of Arab and foreign fighters "who came to wage 'jihad' in Syria', he continued.

Reader Comments
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    • Ayi
      August 27, 2014 @ 09:08:31PM
    • This is the result of the Islamic world's helplessness in defending its people from the cruelty of the Israeli Zionists and their allies and many children became victims of Zionist Israel like what is happening in Palestine at the moment. When the time comes, children feel the need to have knowledge in order to defend themselves should they be attacked. These non Muslims can only condemn the training of children for war. Why don't they nurture these children so that they can prosper? They can't even get treatment for the wounds they suffered because of the Zionist Israel's attack.
    • Kelana
      May 21, 2014 @ 03:05:21AM
    • The war on Arab land (the birthplace of Allah's Prophet) is a sign that the end times are near. Improve our faith and worship to Allah because it can save us from the torments of the afterlife and hell.
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      May 20, 2014 @ 02:05:40AM
    • Even if we yell and swear it will be in vain and no one will hear our voice. It is like shouting in a jungle. What is best is to hold a demonstration so that the government will do something for our brothers in Syria.
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      May 12, 2014 @ 02:05:38AM
    • We should open our eyes so we can better see that the big countries in this world have allowed the conflict in Syria to continue, including the UN. They should intervene soon to prevent the Syrian conflict from expanding and hurting many people. We need to know that people who care are involved in human rights and these are the people who came and helped during the Aceh tsunami. Answer honestly, who was it that gave a large amount of aid for the Aceh tsunami?
    • faruq ali akbar (raihana)
      May 9, 2014 @ 11:05:04PM
    • O Allah, bestow patience and victory upon my fellow Muslims in the eastern hemisphere and in between in their efforts to defend your religion.
    • rois
      May 8, 2014 @ 10:05:43AM
    • I agree with what the mujahideen are doing, I will always support them regardless of what the infidels say.
    • ancute
      May 6, 2014 @ 09:05:43AM
    • Admin, you are devils.
    • nadhifa
      May 5, 2014 @ 01:05:36AM
    • Hopefully glorious victory is achieved in Syria through Allah's help so that the enemies of Islam may tremble. Continue the struggle, mujahideen.
    • sutarno
      May 4, 2014 @ 01:05:54PM
    • Allahuakbar, let's continue the jihad.
    • zaenkaligrafi
      May 3, 2014 @ 06:05:10AM
    • Hail all servants of Allah, make the sentence laa ilaaha ill lalloh the soul of your eternity.
    • Kage
      April 30, 2014 @ 07:04:13AM
    • This is one form of "Thought War". A dissection of opinions.
    • jariyah
      April 22, 2014 @ 05:04:59AM
    • Have patience, O mujahideen in Syria, Amin. Have faith that Allah SWT loves His people who carry out jihad fi sabilillah.
    • Alfius Rumkorem
      April 2, 2014 @ 03:04:28AM
    • Human Rights are upheld in the world to protect the oppressed. When there is no one left to fight for the little people, what would become of the world? Many people do not want to be active in the field of human rights, they are afraid of ending up dead like Munir. But we should be grateful that there are people who would sacrifice themselves for the poor, thank you.
    • Hamba Allah
      March 29, 2014 @ 05:03:24AM
    • If made to choose, would the Admin rather die without doing anything or die after having done something? Haha. The Admin are big losers, they would rather die doing nothing. Look at those children fighting for their family and honor, they would rather die as martyrs rather than stand idle and be killed by the Syrian government. You do not think, and the news is a hoax, you are liars.
    • Kage
      April 30, 2014 @ 07:04:11AM
    • Correct, I agree, even the media is at war. One branch of the "War of Thought".
    • mario talal
      March 2, 2014 @ 01:03:32AM
    • For the sake of Islam at its highest degree (Islamic Caliphate) for Allah, God willing all will be good. But all the infidels, along with their minions, are frightening things with their rotten slogans: Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom. They are cursed, false prophets. Let me enlighten you, infidels, I do not care about your hatred towards Islam and you can die with your hatred.
    • muhammad a
      March 1, 2014 @ 01:03:18AM
    • keep ISLAM generation !!!
    • edo
      February 25, 2014 @ 11:02:15PM
    • Long live Ahlus Sunnah, the first war on the path to the war at the end of days.
    • faruq ali akbar (raihana)
      May 10, 2014 @ 02:05:17AM
    • These days it is difficult to distinguish between the Sunni and the Shia! The question is whether right now we are one of the Sunni or are we Shia?

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