A research observatory in Egypt has found that ISIS militants are kidnapping children or taking them from orphanages for exploitative purposes as the groups refocuses its attention on children.
A study undertaken by the Fatwa Monitoring Observatory at Egypt’s Dar al- Iftaa has found that ISIS is exploiting children in parts of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as countries in central Africa.
Beginning over two years ago, the study is focused on the group’s perception of children and how to exploit them. Since emerging in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the group has often focused its endeavours on violently and forcefully coopting children, believing them to be more malleable than adults.
ISIS’ own unit of children soldiers, known as The Cubs of the Caliphate, is the most prominent and well-documented example of the group’s exploitation of children.
Many of these children were forced into committing savage crimes, sometimes against their own families, with violent ideologies and themes through ‘educational’ sessions additionally imposed on them.
“They do not face this problem with children because influencing them is easier,” said Hassan Mohammed, the Director of the Fatwa Monitoring Observatory. “They are easily allured and satisfying their economic needs is simple. They offer some incentives to tempt them, especially in areas where conflicts are taking place and their living conditions are very difficult.”
Many of the children that are exploited by ISIS include those kidnapped from towns and cities, as well as those taken from orphanages, in an attempt to fill the group’s ranks after its sustained losses across Iraq and Syria.
“The children began to make up for the large absence of fighters, the lack of recruitment of individuals in some countries, and the escape of many of the group’s fighters,” said Hassan. “These things are all counterbalanced by children. The group began to resort to kidnappings of orphaned children from shelters whose parents have died as a result of the events and conflicts in the region.”
The Observatory also examines extremist propaganda put online by the group in the hope of dissecting and dismantling some of the core themes promulgated in these texts.
As witnessed in other parts of the Middle East, countering these themes of division and hate will be key to reintegrating children back into their societies and helping them overcome the dark past under ISIS rule.