Editor’s Note: Images below, and some references in the report, could be disturbing for readers. Please use caution.
A new report from the Middle East Media Research Institute is documenting how children of ISIS fighters are being indoctrinated into violence, taking part in re-enactments of beheadings, pretend beheadings with dolls, and even attending actual beheadings.
One revealing image that was tweeted shows an “[Islamic] State toddler kicking an unbeliever’s [severed] head,” with a message stating, “Woe to you, O unbelievers and apostates from such a generation that got soaked with the love of cutting off the heads and snipping the necks.”
MEMRI reports that ISIS propaganda routinely features children and teens, who are called “lion cubs.”
“These youngsters have various roles within the organization,” the report explains. “Children are central to ISIS; they are the future generation of the defenders of the caliphate and they will continue its legacy.”
Moreover, the report said, “ISIS children receive military training, both in camps conducted by the organization and individually, with ISIS fighters. There is little discussion, in the organization and among its supporters, over whether children should be undergoing military training, or even fighting in actual battles. Although there is little documentation of the latter, there is evidence that children are indeed participating in the fighting.”
Many times, MEMRI reported, children are shown brandishing weapons, and the images are used “to prod other Muslims – that is, adults who have not yet done so – to join the jihad.”
“Photos of children re-enacting in play some ISIS atrocities, such as the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley, are also widely shared via social media,” the report said.
As for actual violence, the report confirms children “are often seen among the crowds attending ISIS’s public executions – in some cases, holding ISIS banners mere feet away from the bloody events.”
Their deaths, when they happen, are simply more fodder, MEMRI said.
“On October 20, 2014, a photo of a little boy identified as Abu Al-‘Abd Al-Shami, and described as the ‘youngest mujahid in the Islamic State,’ was posted on alplatformmedia.com. The child is posed with an AK-47 that is taller than he is, and the caption read: ‘The youngest mujahid in the Islamic State is the hero Abu Al-‘Abd Al-Shami – May Allah protect our hero and support him,” MEMRI said.
And on October 7, “Images of a boy identified as Abu Ubaida were tweeted; he too was identified as the “youngest fighter in the Islamic State.’ The tweet said that he ‘got martyred’ with his father two weeks previously in a U.S. airstrike.”
MEMRI reported since details were few, it was not clear if the boy died participating in actual battles.
But his death was “used” to encourage others to join the violence.
One image of Ubaida even showed him it what appears to be an explosives vest.
“The fact that ISIS children are given military and weapons training, are indoctrinated to fight ISIS’s enemies, and are expected to carry on in the path of the adult mujahideen gives rise to the assumption that they also have some role in assisting military operations,” the report said.
What is clear are the images released where children are seen carrying weapons, observing horrific atrocities, taking part in training and more.
“In October, in the city of Al-Raqqa, Syria, ISIS beheaded two men it accused of blasphemy. Photos of the event posted by ISIS showed children in the crowd of spectators.”
“Not only do children attend these executions, they appear to be participants. In September 2014, ISIS published a series of photos of a number of public executions/crucifixions of men accused of apostasy, in the city of Manbij in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. The photos clearly show a large number of children among the spectators. Children also appear to be given front-row seats, often only feet away from the execution.”
Even infants are used similarly. One image showed a newborn with the message, “This is Umm Ammarah Al-Muhajirah, another citizen of the Islamic State and daughter of the ummah.”
Yet another image showed a masked child wielding a knife, and holding a doll dressed in an orange jumpsuit, like Foley at his execution.
Another following photo reveals the doll with its head severed and red smears, MEMRI said.
The report by M. Khayat, a research fellow at MEMRI, noted that among the figures in photographs of soldiers preparing for battle is a child in military garb.
It was reported earlier that children growing up in ISIS-controlled territory are expected to attend a “School of Jihad” to learn weaponry and become acclimatized to the horrors of war.
“This barbarism should be a wake-up call to the West,” he wrote.