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Monday, August 1, 2016

Islamic State's Child Soldiers 'the Caliphate Cubs' : First Come the Sweets, Then the Beheadings.

Islamic State's Child Soldiers 'the Caliphate Cubs' : First Come the Sweets, Then the Beheadings. (Spiegel).

The Islamic State is holding thousands of young boys captive in Syria and Iraq, where it is teaching them the Koran and how to become deadly child soldiers. 

In a tent in a refugee camp in Dohuk, at the base of ochre-colored mountains, Amir and Ahmed, 15 and 16, unroll their mats on the floor to forget the terrible memories. It's a cool autumn evening, and they prop themselves up with cushions and turn on the TV. The two brothers fled from their captivity at the hands of the Islamic State (IS) six months ago. Now all they want to do is watch some cartoons.

The brothers flip through the channels. IS also has its own propaganda station, which viewers can easily receive here, in Kurdish northern Iraq. Ahmed, holding the remote control in his hand, suddenly calls out: "There we are Amir! That's us!" The brothers recognize themselves on the screen: dressed in black outfits, their faces masked, with other child soldiers during combat training in Mosul.

It is now spring, and that evening spent in front of the television is a few months in the past. Ahmed and Amir, sitting close together, talk about it in the same small tent in the camp. Ahmed, the older of the two, speaks in a hoarse voice about their time with IS, while Amir stares at the floor. "They gave us drugs, and we believed everything after that," they say

Ahmed and Amir were held hostage by IS for nine months, imprisoned in a military camp in Mosul, the IS stronghold in Iraq. There the terrorist organization used beatings and weapons to train them to become child soldiers, or "lion cubs of the caliphate," as IS puts it. The "lion cubs" blow themselves up to kill supposed infidels. They witness beheadings, to learn how they are done. They donate blood for injured adult fighters. And they turn in traitors.

It is difficult to determine how many child soldiers Islamic State is training. Experts estimate that about 1,500 boys are serving the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. Some are born to the militants. In fact, more than 31,000 women are currently pregnant in IS-held territory. Other children arrive with their parents from abroad when the parents join the jihadist movement. In many cases, the "lion cubs" are also children of local fighters or orphans who join IS voluntarily. Others, like Ahmed and Amir, are kidnapped. Read the full story here.

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