Some Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS ) fighters have taken their young sons with them to fight in Syria , according to news reports from the Middle East.
One case involved a Saudi government employee, Nasser al-Shayeq, who reportedly took his sons, 11-year-old Abdullah and 10-year-old Ahmed, to Syria to join ISIS .
Nasser texted his ex-wife, saying, "Consider your children birds in paradise," and told her that their children had arrived in Syria with him, according to Al-Hayat newspaper. He previously told her he was taking the boys on a trip to another Persian Gulf country.
In fact, the three had entered Syria via Turkey , the newspaper reported.
In another case, a photo of a 7-year-old child holding a severed head surfaced on social media sites. The boy was identified as the son of Khaled Sharrouf, an Australian-born construction worker of Lebanese descent, reported the Australian newspaper.
Khaled had posted the photograph on social networking sites along with the caption, "That's my boy."
Elsewhere, a Malaysian married a widow from Singapore, then took her and her two children to Syria in November, according to Malaysian media outlet The Star.
The father joined Jabhat Al-Nusra and his 14-year old stepson joined ISIS. His wife worked as a cook, while her 18-year-old daughter allegedly taught English to the children of militants.
Using kids for suicide missions
The incidents are yet another episode of the recruitment of children "carried out by terrorist groups", said Abdul Kareem Ahmed, a retired Egyptian major general and expert on al-Qaeda .
"ISIS is currently preparing the new generation of its criminal members and has already set up training camps for children," he said.
According to the United Nations, ISIS fighters in Iraq have killed hundreds of children through summary executions and used some as suicide bombers, AFP reported September 8th.
ISIS was recruiting boys as young as 13 to carry weapons, guard strategic locations and arrest civilians, said Leila Zerrougui, the top UN envoy on children and armed conflict.
Such reports have sparked an international outcry.
"Thrusting children into the on-going war in Syria and Iraq is the ultimate debasement," said Sheikh Ramez al-Ali, an Islamic jurisprudence professor at Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
ISIS militants contend that involving children in the fighting is an act of jihad and a sharia duty, but it is actually "unmatched religious heresy", he said.
ISIS's use of children in Iraq and Syria is very harmful, said Waliyuddine Mukhtar, a family relations consultant and psychology professor at Cairo University.
"The psychological effects are devastating to their physical and psychological health, and these children will of course be turned into criminals with no scruples about the crimes they commit," he told Al-Shorfa.
As for parents who thrust their children into war, they must have been "brainwashed to behave in this manner", Waliyuddine said, "for no father in his right mind would push his son to his death".