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The Children of Islamic State


Quilliam is a counter-extremism think tank based in London focusing on Islamist radicalisation, extremism, terrorism, and how to counter these phenomena. Their work combines research, outreach, and advocacy. Their latest report decribes and analyzes the plight of children raised by Daesh to serve the caliphate as child soldiers.  Germanpages.de -- Deutsche Rundschau is pleased to present the Executive Summary of this report.

   The future of children born and raised in Islamic State (Daesh) is a pertinent and pressing problem, requiring the immediate attention of the international community.


   There are currently 31,000 pregnant women within the ‘caliphate’ 1 . As many as 50 children from the United Kingdom are growing up on jihad in Islamic State, and no prior research examines what will happen to them if they choose to return.

   This report attempts to fill this gap by addressing the reintegration, re-education, and rehabilitation challenges of returning or escaping children. Over the last six months, Quilliam researchers have archived, translated, and analysed propaganda released by Islamic State featuring children. This is the first database of its kind, and reveals the following:   

   The largest amount of Islamic State media featuring children relates to violence, comprising either of children directly participating in violence, or being exposed and normalised to violence. Islamic State’s wilayats in Iraq have released the most images showing children and teens in combat and acting as suicide bombers.

    • In the last six months, Islamic State propaganda depicts 12 child executioners, and one child participating in a public execution. The report highlights the following exclusive findings which pertain to the recruitment and training of child soldiers in the Islamic State:

    • Direct coercion into joining Islamic State generally occurs through abductions. However, Islamic State also engages in more indirect, systemic coercion where people, specifically children, are pressured to join the group out of fear.

    • Children can not only assist in meeting the present needs of the ‘caliphate’, but can continue to propagate its existence and expansion once they grow up, thus securing the long-term survival of the ‘caliphate’.

    • The current generation of fighters sees children as better and more lethal fighters than themselves. Rather than being converted into radical ideologies, children have been indoctrinated into extreme values from birth or at a young age.

    • Schools and the education system are central to shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation. The indoctrination that begins in schools intensifies in training camps, where children between the ages of 10 and 15 are instructed in shari’a, desensitised to violence, and are taught specific skills to best serve the state and take up the banner of jihad.

    • Boys learn a rigid Islamic State curriculum, where drawing, philosophy and social studies, the ‘methodology of atheism’, have been removed. Instead, children churn out memorised verses of the Qur’an and attend ‘Jihadi Training’, which includes Information obtained from an interview between Noman Benotman and a senior intelligence officer

    •  From August 2015 until February 2016, Quilliam documented 254 instances where children have been used in Islamic State propaganda. These have been organised into the five categories: participation in violence, normalisation to violence, state building, utopia, and foreign policy grievances. Quilliam shooting, weaponry and martial arts. Girls, also known as the ‘pearls of the caliphate’, are veiled, hidden, confined to the home, and taught to look after husbands.

    • The prolonged exposure and desensitisation to violence that children experience affects their physical and psychological well-being, both in the short term and in the long term. Looking to the future, it is inevitable that these children will suffer from severe physical and mental trauma, as well as systematic extremist indoctrination. By coupling in-depth fieldwork with extensive research, Quilliam was able to discern not only what life for children within Islamic State is like, but the extent of the challenge of re-integration to come.

    Based on our findings, the report proposes a thorough assessment process for children who return or escape from Islamic State. This procedure evaluates the extent of radicalisation of the child, their degree of agency in joining Islamic State, the trauma and abuse they have suffered, and the immediate and long-term needs for ensuring effective Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration, and Rehabilitation DDR(R). The recommendations detail a multi-structural support network for monitoring a child’s progress.

(Please see the full report here)

Noman Benotman & Nikita Malik -- Quilliam & The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

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