Since its inception, a record number of human rights violations of all kinds have been documented against ISIS, making it a subject of global interest. This is especially in the light of its stereotypical depiction as an “extreme Islamic organisation”, in addition to the paid campaigns pushed by the Syrian regime and its supporters as ISIS being the front which the regime has to face in its war in Syria, pushing the message that a clear side must be taken: you are either with the regime or with ISIS!
It is important to note here that the Syrian regime has committed crimes and dangerous violations equivalent to what most repressive regimes of the modern era have committed. However, most of these crimes are not being documented with the exception of a few which were leaked. This is in contrast to the violations committed by ISIS, which are being documented in a clear and detailed manner, and which are immediately being published and spread on media outlets.
The crimes committed by ISIS encompass many areas, such as its violations against those working in the media and civil activists, or leaders and activists in opposing battalions, in addition to violations committed against minorities, women and children.
This report will look at ISIS violations committed against children, in particular, their right to life and security.
Recruitment and Orientation Programmes
In order to recruit children soldiers, ISIS depends on enticing programmes which provide children with activities, entertainment and an atmosphere which is missing for children in Syria due to the difficult circumstances they are living in. Adolescents are given a chance to express themselves through identifying with a strong military organisation, giving them a sense of power and self-fulfilment.
Children are put in courses which aim to convince them of the organisation’s ideas, and several videos published by the group have shown lectures in which ISIS members target children, and in which the children repeat ISIS slogans.
The organisation has also shown an avid interest in schools and teaching since its inception, with schools being the first places seized when occupying an area.
The organisation has made the headscarf obligatory on all female school children, and has also prohibited subjects such as Art, Sports and Music.
Sources also reveal that the education wing of the organisation plans to publish an educational syllabus for schools which will fall under its control.
ISIS arms children soldiers within its ranks in a profuse manner, with children appearing as armed soldiers in videos published by the organisation, participating in military campaigns alongside elders. Children have also been seen taking part in killing operations which ISIS practices against those who oppose them, and in particular against those who support the Assad regime.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) estimates that there are around 800 children under the age of 18 fighting in ISIS ranks. Most of them take part in non-killing activities, assisting elder fighters in a logistical manner, such as transferring ammunition, preparing meals, cleaning munitions and machines, whilst others assist with guarding patrols and barriers.
Psychological and Educational Violations against Children
The psychological violations committed against children is the most serious of ISIS’ violations in this field, as the organisation intentionally exposes children to acts of violence which it practices in order to encourage them to pursue such acts and take part in them.
All videos and pictures published by the organisation of its acts of slaughter, beheadings, and crucifixions in areas which fall under its control have shown children present in the front rows, including children with cameras and phones that are recording the scene.
Recordings have also shown children holding beheaded heads and even taking part in acts of slaughter. A number of ISIS soldiers have also spread photos of their children assisting them during acts of killing.
As an example of this, Khalid Sharoof, an Australian ISIS fighter of Lebanese origin, shared a photo of a seven year old child holding the beheaded head belonging to a fighter of one of the opposition Syrian groups. A child has also been seen holding the beheaded head of the Judge of the Suqoor al-Shaam group, Abu Abdul-Samee’, after ISIS raided the village of Akhtareen on 14/8/2014.
Violations against Life
In a similar manner to the Syrian regime, ISIS has not exempted children from its acts of killing and the massacres it perpetrates, with children being subjected to killing alongside women and the elderly.
In addition to the acts of killing practised by the organisation as a result of its indiscriminate shelling, or its deliberate summary executions upon taking control of an area which had resisted previously, a number of children have been killed separately after being accused of breaking their fast in Ramadan, or even of acts such as rape!
As is the norm with ISIS, the body of the children who have been executed are placed in the public square for a number of days in order to terrify the local population.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The practices of ISIS in the areas which fall under its control point to its direct targeting of children and its keenness in embedding the organisation’s ideas into their minds through controlling schools and organising programmes to attract them.
The recordings which ISIS and its members spread through the internet also reveal the eagerness of the organisation in ensuring the participation of children in the scenes of violence and barbaric executions which it commits.
Whilst warning of the current violations ISIS is committing against children, SHRC stresses the core and fundamental danger of ISIS’ influence on children, which will make the process of eliminating ISIS in the future a very difficult task.
SHRC recommends the following:
- The importance of the work of civil societies in areas within ISIS control and outside of their control in providing awareness and educational programmes for children, providing them with enough protection from the propaganda of ISIS.
- The importance of local and international organisations in providing parents with programmes which guide them in dealing with children who have been subjected to scenes of violence and children who are participating in such acts with ISIS.
- The importance of the international community to work in earnest to support the Syrians in their right for a civil state which will respect their human rights. It is the absence of these rights which allows for continuous violations to take place from all sides, and especially from the side of the Syrian regime. The disregard of these violations from the international community increases extremism, especially within the youth, and leaves a dangerous impact on the whole Syrian society.
Syrian Human Rights Committee