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New report reveals plight of children inside Islamic State group

Screen grab from Islamic State (IS) group propaganda video

The indoctrination and education of children living in territories controlled by the Islamic State group is a central component of the extremist movement’s strategy as it seeks to create a new generation of fighters, according to a new study.

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Children growing up in the IS group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” are not only taught a radical version of Islam, but are systemically desensitised to war and violence through school curricula, a study by the London-based Quilliam think tank has revealed.

“It’s a systematic creation of fighters who the group really sees as more pure and lethal than themselves,” Nikita Malik, a senior researcher at Quilliam, told FRANCE 24. “This is not being done randomly, but with a clear focus”.

The 100-page report published on March 7 is the result of a six-month study into what role children play in the organisation of the Islamic State group and what they are being taught.

It found that children are regularly featured as part of the IS group’s propaganda, including in execution videos.

In school, boys memorise verses of the Qur’an while at the same time receiving “jihadist training” that features weapons training and hand-to-hand combat. Girls are largely confined to the home and taught to look after husbands.

Rehabilitation

The study drew attention to the fact that many children now growing up under the IS group were taken to Iraq and Syria from Europe and other countries by their families, underscoring the need to prepare for their potential return.

“It’s a massive risk for the societies where the children will later go. Nations have a territorial responsibility if these children decide to return or escape from the Islamic State [territories] to reintegrate, rehabilitate and re-educate [them]” said Malik.

The researcher said that re-education programs existed for child soldiers, but dealing with children of the IS group would be uncharted territory.

“The education and religious component is stronger in the Islamic State” she said, adding that the study included policy recommendations for government leaders.

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