THE FORGOTTEN. The children of terror. How the Islamic State uses children on the battlefield or as suicide attackers and how many victims does jihadism make around the world – VIDEO
While most of the children spend their days surrounded by a loving family, playing outside with their friends and going to school, let’s not forget about the other children that are not that fortunate. THE FORGOTTEN: children exposed to poverty and famine, forced labour, violence or suffering in the war zones.
EvoNews will publish a series of articles which aim to bring awareness to these serious issues and inspire people to take action to improve the worrisome situation of millions of children that are struggling instead of living their childhood without a care in the world.
Thousands of children are used in armed conflicts throughout the whole world. Some of them are so young, they commit murders at the age of 4. They fight on the front, engage in a suicide mission, are used as spies, messengers or guards. The girls are used as sex slaves. Many are kidnapped and “turned” into killers with the help of propaganda, others join themselves, believing their chances of survival increase like so, according to non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch.
Many activate within the Islamic State forces, previously known as ISIS or ISIL. Even more, though, are victims of the terrorist organisation, known for its cruelty and violence.
From Al-Qaeda to al-Baghdadi
A Sunni organisation, it preaches an ultra-harsh and fundamentalist Islam. The Islamic State was initially a branch of Al-Qaeda, the famous organisation founded by Osama bin Laden.
It was founded in 1999 and participated at the insurgence against the Western troops in Iraq in 2003. Later on, former members of the security troops from Saddam Hussein’s regime made it there.
In 2014, the organisation took advantage of the political chaos in Syria and Iraq and conquered large provinces in these countries, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming a Caliphate, which means he assumes the religious, political and military leadership of the Islamic world.
From that moment on, the Islamic State expanded, and more Islamic factions from around the world swore faith to it. At the moment, the Islamic State dominates part of Libya’s territory. The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, part of Yemen, a group is active in Algeria, while another one is active in Afghanistan’s Khorasan province.
Another group famous for its cruelty, Boko Haram, declared itself an affiliate of the Islamic State. It is especially active in north-eastern Nigeria, as well as neighbouring states – Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, and more recently, in Benin.
Dozens of millions of victims
According to UNICEF, at the end of 2016, over 11 million people required humanitarian help in Iraq alone, all because of ISIS. 5,1 million of them are children. Three million people fled the attacks in Iraq, half of them being children.
In Syrian, half of the country’s population, 11 million people respectively, was forced to abandon their homes due to the civil war. The Islamic State is not the only actor involved in the conflict, with Bashar al-Assad’s troops (supported by Russia and Iran), the moderate rebels (supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and the Kurdish troops (supported by the USA, but bombed by Turkey, who do not wish the instauration of an autonomous Kurdistan) are also involved. Out of these 11 million, over 5 million left Syria and became refugees in other countries, from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to the heart of Europe, in Germany.
Since 2011, when the war in Syria broke, around 386,000 people died in the conflict, out of which 14,000 are children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Besides malnutrition, children are also suffering from various diseases due to poor hygiene. Moreover, many are forced to work in order to help their families, with many families often choosing to marry their girls, some of them aged 11 – 13. At the same time, between 2 and 3 million children in Syrian don’t make it to school anymore.
These are not the only victims: Boko Haram forced 2,3 million people to leave their homes in Nigeria, and 250,000 made it in neighbouring countries.
Horrors of the war
These are just empty numbers. Here is what the daily lives of children in conflict areas look like.
11 children were among the 58 victims of the chemical attack in the Idlib province in Syria. The heartbreaking videos of children treated by doctors or carried by people went viral on the Internet at the time.
These are not the only cases. In January, Bana Alabed, a 7-year-old girl in Syria, asked American President Donald Trump to save the children in Syria. She fled from Aleppo in December 2016, when government forces conquered the area. In January, when she recorded her message with the help of a phone, she was in Turkey.
Bana read an open letter to Trump, in which she wrote how her school was bombed, and some of her colleagues were killed. “You must do something for the children of Syria because they are like you and children deserve peace like you,” she says in the video recorded by her mother Fatemah. “If you promise me you will do something for the children and people of Syria I am already your new friend,” she added.
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) January 25, 2017
Malala Yousafzai is another young girl became famous. She was born in 1997 in Pakistan, and in 2009 was in the Swat region, then controlled by the Taliban. At the time, the Taliban had banned girls from going to school. Malala wrote under an alias on BBC Urdu, where she was giving details about life under Taliban occupation. In 2010, New York Times wrote about her life, as the Pakistani army had asked for a siege over the Taliban-controlled territory. In 2012, Malala was a victim of an attack directed at her, when an armed Taliban tried to kill her. Malala made it to the Rawalpindi hospital in critical condition, and she was later transferred to a hospital in the UK. In 2013, she wrote bestseller ”I Am Malala”, and in 2014 she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Another famous case is the kidnapping of 276 girls by Boko Haram, in Chibok. They were sold as slaves, and over 50 escaped from then.
This is not the only case of this kind. The Islamic State captured and used as sex slaves many girls in the Yazidi community.
After a series of attacks directed against the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Islamic State published an ”interview” in the Rumiyah magazine with the faction’s Egypt leader, in which he “justified” the attacks due to the “belligerent” attitude of the Christians.
In the Islamic tradition, Christians and Jews are protected if they pay a tax. The attacks on Christian churches, as well as those in which Muslims die, made the believers have less faith in the Islamic State, claiming that this proves the disloyalty of members. Except that the Islamic State used the respective interview to justify the non-discriminating attacks, including the killing of women and children, with the fact that Mohamed used catapults during the siege on the city of Ta’if, in 630.
Another kind of victims is represented by the child soldiers. Huffington Post wrote that between January and August 2015 alone, over 1,100 children were recruited by the Islamic State in Syria. Mia Bloom, the author of a study conducted by the Georgia State University, estimated that in December 2016, there were 1,500 children used by ISIS as fighters.
The children were not used only as fighters: ClarionProject.org presented in January a video taken over from the Islamic State propaganda channels on social media and which featured several children ”doing jihad”, decapitating or shooting prisoners.
This does not stop here: ISIS uses special camps for training children so that they become fighters or suicide attackers. This is an issue observed even by Europol, considering that the future fighters will pose a threat to Europe. Over 50 children of jihadists from the UK are in training camps in the ”Caliphate”.
Such a video was shown by British newspaper Daily Mail on its own website.
On the other hand, not only ISIS uses children as fighters: the Human Rights Watch organisation documented 29 cases in northern Iraq in which Kurdish and Yazidi children were recruited by two groups: HPG and YPS. The first one is the armed branch of PKK, the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan, which fight against Turkey for making a Kurdish state. YPS is a militia of the Yazidi religious minority and is also affiliated to the PKK.