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Children Brutalized by Islamic State (IS) will need Urgent Help, say Experts

As stated by the SITE counter terrorism website, these children, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek

A screenshot from an Islamic State propaganda video that purports to show young boys executing Kurdish fighters. Image source: VOA

August 27, 2016: Islamic State extremists almost as a badge of honour, posted this chilling image of five children staring into the camera with guns in their upraised arms, about to execute, the other five grown men dressed in orange jumpsuits kneel in front of them.

This image was released on Friday, and featured in an IS video from Ragga, Syria. As stated by the SITE counter-terrorism website, the young boys, in this image, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek.

With a profound level of psychological warfare, IS, a deeply disturbing sign of the extremist group’s, has increasingly featured children in its constant barrage of propaganda.

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Though the German magazine Der Spiegel quoted saying about 1,500 boys were serving the militant group in Iraq and Syria, but the exact number of children who have been put through the Islamic State’s child soldier boot camp is unknown.

One of the experts VOA talked with suspects there are that many in Iraq alone.

As the Iraqi Security Forces, with Kurdish troops and U.S.-led coalition support, converge on the IS stronghold of Mosul, there are growing concerns about what will happen to the children who have been forced to live under IS.

“There is no way we are prepared to manage the scale of what we see in front of us,” John Horgan, a professor at Georgia State University and an expert on terrorism and political violence, told VOA. “We are looking at a level of [child] mobilization that is unprecedented and increasing.”

Image source : VOA
Islamic State supporters. Image source : VOA

Snipers and suicide bombers

According to Farah Dakhlallah, UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa spokeswoman, child recruitment has increased across the Middle East, and the roles that children are recruited into are changing.

“In previous years, children were in support roles,” Dakhlallah told VOA by phone from Jordan. “But in the past two years, they are taking on much more active roles, carrying weapons, manning checkpoints, being used as snipers and as suicide bombers.”

In Syria, children are increasingly being used in armed and combat roles by different parties to the conflict, at times recruited as young as seven years old, Dakhlallah said.

“Often we think this is happening without parental consent,” she said. But there may be instances where the parents have been complicit, further complicating the psychological picture.

“I’ve been studying terrorism for 20 years; I have seen nothing like this,” Horgan said. “This is altogether different.”


While organizations like UNICEF provide a level of psychosocial services to children who have escaped the conflict, experts warn that some children may have been severely brutalized.

“I don’t think we have a real understanding of what these kids have been through,” Horgan told VOA. “We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

IS has been grooming, training and indoctrinating children for several years and has also widened its recruitment approach to include children, encouraging entire families to join IS.

Children who have escaped have described the horror they have been through.

“Some children were sexually assaulted as part of their training. Some were beaten by sticks. They slept on flea-ridden mattresses and were beaten and bullied if they faltered even for a second,” Horgan said.

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“IS executed children who showed signs of disillusionment or of missing their parent,” he added.

“These children did not emerge out of the ether in the last couple of months,” Horgan said. “[IS militants] have been grooming and indoctrinating kids for a few years now. I think it’s an investment in their future.”

UNICEF efforts

In Iraq, UNICEF says it is working with the Iraqi government to improve juvenile detention centers and programs for children in detention, including those on security-related charges.

The U.N. agency is also advocating for training front-line security forces on child rights.

But Amnesty International has criticized Iraq’s judiciary structure as weak and opaque, and security officials as barely coping with the flood of people fleeing IS control. Hundreds of males have already disappeared from unofficial security screening points.

Asked whether the humanitarian agencies were prepared for the wave of children who will be emerging from Mosul as security operations ramp up to retake the IS stronghold, Horgan had only one word to say: “No.” (VOA)



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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    At the age of lifting books and pens, they are lifting guns.

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UN: Rohingya Children Face Perpetual Life in Limbo

UNICEF says the nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will not return to their homes in Myanmar without guarantees of safety

Rohingya Children
The report by the U.N. children's fund says that these children face multiple dangers, including the imminent threat of floods, landslides, and waterborne disease outbreaks during the upcoming monsoon and cyclone seasons. VOA

A generation of Rohingya children in Myanmar and Bangladesh will be condemned to a perpetual life in limbo unless coordinated international action is taken to end the violence and discrimination against the Rohingya people, according to the UNICEF report Lives in Limbo.

More than half a million Rohingya refugee children are estimated to have fled to Bangladesh. The report by the U.N. children’s fund says that these children face multiple dangers, including the imminent threat of floods, landslides, and waterborne disease outbreaks during the upcoming monsoon and cyclone seasons, as well as the exploitation and early marriages that arise from living in congested, slumlike conditions.

However, the situation for the estimated 185,000 children who remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is considered even grimmer, according to Simon Ingram, author of the report.

ALSO READ: Crisis of Rohingya: A future lost in darkness of time

Rohingya Children
A Rohingya Muslim child kisses his mother as they rest after having crossed over from Myanmar to the Bangladesh side of the border near Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf area, Sept. 2, 2017. Tens of thousands of others crossed into Bangladesh in a 24-hour span as they fled violence in western Myanmar, the UNHCR said. VOA

He says families there reportedly are living isolated, fearful lives with minimal access to basic services.

“I think, if we are looking for an indicator of the situation on the ground, there is the fact that people are still continuing to come at the rate of something like 1,000 or more a week, crossing into Bangladesh,” Ingram said. “So, I think that that number itself speaks to the situation on the ground — the anxiety, the fear, the continued threat of violence and the hope of those people and those communities.”

UNICEF is urging the Myanmar government to end the violence, to lift restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement in Rakhine state, to provide for their basic needs, and to grant unlimited access to humanitarian agencies.

UNICEF says the nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will not return to their homes in Myanmar without guarantees of safety. In the meantime, it says, education offers one of the best opportunities for Rohingya children to achieve a better future. (VOA)