Iraq: Islamic State recruiting children as young as 12 as fighters

Parents of children who lived under Islamic State (IS) rule in Iraq have revealed that boys as young as 12 were recruited as fighters from schools where they were taught how to behead people and make suicide bombs.

 3/11/16 - Jad'ah Camp Qayyarah, Iraq *Hamid, 45 years fled from his home town, just south of Mosul when fighting began. He travelled with his family to find safety in Qayyarah. He describes the impact of living under ISIS for children and what they were taught in school. His son (pictured) *Karam went to school under ISIS for two months. In *Hamid's words, "There was no thinking, no life, all of it was ignorance, there were no books. All the their ( ISIS) stuff was about how to make bombs and mines. This was the whole thing in their minds. If you brought the children in 5th grade to ask them to write his name, he couldn’t write it down it down. They are ignorant ( ISIS)" "When children came out from the school there was a big TV in the garden where they were showing propaganda. How to kill and how to make suicide bombs and how to cut heads off. They showed the same modules that are studied in the Islamic Jihadist book, it was just like sharing what exactly has been written in books by showing ISIS activities" "They would tell children how to make bombs and how your beard should be. (ISIS style ( long beard, classic, clothes) there was punishment for the one who don’t follow their rules" "300 to 350 children would go to the school, sometimes it was 200, there no precise numbers. In the end not many children were attending school it ended up with ISIS going to the Mosque to tell people send your children to school. The schools has been closed because no parents would send their kids" Save the Children teams put up a tented temporary learning space in Jadah camp, south of Mosul. Nearly 1,000 families have fled to Jadah from ISIS-controlled areas in the past few days, due to heavy fighting as part of the Mosul offensive. Many children in ISIS-held areas have been out of school for up to two years, as parents choose to keep their children at home rather than expose them to the heavily militarised ISIS-run curriculum. The new Save the Children learning t
*Hamid, 45, with his son Karam, who went to school under ISIS for two months

One million children living under IS

We estimate that more than one million children have been living under IS rule in Iraq. They have either been out of school or forced to learn from an IS curriculum.

One parent told us that said girls were not allowed to go to school. But, scared for their safety, most parents kept their boys at home too, despite pressure from IS.

For many children, this lasted over two years.

IS teach children “how to cut heads off”

Hamid (above) has five children. He said: “They would tell children how to make bombs.

“When children came out from the school there was a big TV in the garden where they were showing propaganda: how to kill and how to make suicide bombs and how to cut heads off.

“We told them… you should not believe it. This is not the right Islam. We were guiding our children to make sure they didn’t believe everything they were taught.”

Recruited at school

Father of four, Karim (below) said children as young as 12 were recruited by IS at school. Children told Karim that they were taken to an IS base for 40 days. They were “trained” and taught that is was Halaal (permissable) to kill army people.

“They used to take about 50-100 children for each programme. A lot of children obeyed IS and then they were killed in fighting.”

Forced to choose: education or safety

Karim said his children lived in constant fear. “It’s difficult for my girls, they were very scared, crying all the time, shaking.

He doesn’t want to keep his children out of school. “I want my children to get educated, and get a job. The most important thing for them is to read and to write.”

 2/11/16 - Jad'ah Camp Qayyarah, Iraq *Karim, 45 years fled his home town, just south of Mosul City when the fighting began. He travelled with his five children and wife, (Pictured) *Altaf 11 - (grey top) (Pictured) *Aini 10 - Green and light cream (Girl) (Pictured) *Ghadir 7 - Pink top, *Futun 14 and *Anas13 . All of his children have not been to school for three years. His Mother and brother were taken by ISIS to be used as "human shields", he knows his mother died but has not heard from his brother since. Talking the experience for children of living under ISIS, he said: "ISIS used to ask the community to bring their children to schools, I didn’t let my son go" "They used to teach them on guns, a bullet + a bullet = 2 bullets. Draw them tanks and airplanes and to teach them how to shoot and how to fight" "They used to take 12 year old children to fight." "Some children told me that ISIS used to take them to their base for 40 days to train them and to tell the that it’s Halal to kill army people' "They used to take about 50-100 children for each programme (40 days) " "It’s difficult for my girls they very scared, crying all the time, shaking" "I want my children to get educated, and get a job. The most important thing for them is to read ad to write" "I want them to have a bright future, to learn, to get a job, I don’t want them to stay in the dark days like we had, no education, can’t write or read" Save the Children teams put up a tented temporary learning space in Jadah camp, south of Mosul. Nearly 1,000 families have fled to Jadah from ISIS-controlled areas in the past few days, due to heavy fighting as part of the Mosul offensive. Many children in ISIS-held areas have been out of school for up to two years, as parents choose to keep their children at home rather than expose them to the heavily militarised ISIS-run curriculum. The new Save the Children learning tents will help get 1200 children learning again.
Karim and his children fled his home town just south of Mosul City, Iraq, when the fighting began.

Getting back to school

These families are among the 33,000 people forced to leave their homes by the ongoing battle for Mosul city between Iraqi forces and ISIS. The parents we spoke to are now based at Jad’ah camp, south of Qayyarah, in Northern Iraq, where we have built temporary classrooms there.

Our Iraq country director, Maurizio Crivellaro, says that the excitement of children of palpable: “As soon as we set the classrooms up, they were already gathering outside and peering in curiously.

“Judging by the big smiles on their faces, they knew this is how school should be and they were excited to get back to normal.

“Children and parents tell us that during times of crisis, education is their priority. They tell us it’s the key to their future and it can’t be delayed. These children have missed out on enough of their childhoods.”

No parent should have to choose between their child’s safety and their education.

Donate now to help us get children fleeing IS back in school

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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