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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

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

Unprepared

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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A lesson in the woods may boost kids’ learning

Moreover, the number of times the teacher had to redirect a student's attention to their work was roughly halved immediately after an outdoor lesson.

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Just sitting in classrooms makes children more dull. Wikimedia Commons
Just sitting in classrooms makes children more dull. Wikimedia Commons
  • To help students concentrate and learn more, teachers have found a new way of teaching them.
  • This technique of teaching outdoors will boost children’s mental capabilities to learn and remember.

Are your students unable to concentrate on their lessons in the classroom? Take them for outdoor learning sessions.

According to a study, a lesson in the lap of nature can significantly increase children’s attention level and boost their learning.

While adults exposed to parks, trees or wildlife have been known to experience benefits such as increased physical activity, stress reduction, rejuvenated attention and increased motivation, in children, even a view of greenery through a classroom window can have positive effects on their attention span, the researchers said.

The study showed that post an outdoor lesson, students were significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork and were not overexcited or inattentive.

Taking students outside help them concentrate more. Wikimedia Commons
Taking students outside help them concentrate more. Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, the number of times the teacher had to redirect a student’s attention to their work was roughly halved immediately after an outdoor lesson.

“Our teachers were able to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long at a time after the outdoor lesson and we saw the nature effect with our sceptical teacher as well,” said Ming Kuo, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers tested their hypothesis in third graders (9-10 years old) in a school.

A few minutes outside help students concentrate better. VOA
A few minutes outside help students concentrate better. VOA

Over a 10-week period, an experienced teacher held one lesson a week outdoors and a similar lesson in her regular classroom and another, more sceptical teacher did the same. Their outdoor “classroom” was a grassy spot just outside the school, in view of a wooded area.

A previous research suggested that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can also significantly improve a child’s mood, attention and memory. IANS