As the dust settles, stories from children trapped under the group are emerging showing the calculating and long term agenda of ISIS.
We are introduced to two young boys no older than 12 who recount their stories and tactics ISIS militants used to lure in young children into the group with aims to make them ‘cubs of the caliphate’. The ‘cubs of the caliphate are ISISs child soldiers who are recruited and trained to build stronger and continue the caliphate for decades to come, with hopes that this process will replicate itself. In Tabqa, ISIS militants would target every school for recruits, in doing so brainwashing the minds of the children.
ISIS uses a wide variety of tools to recruit children into its cause, both voluntarily and involuntarily. More often than not, these tools are part of the IS’ wider state-building apparatus and are deployed alongside other projects aimed at the general population in areas it has under its influence.
Five central tactics are used for recruitment, including; the organising of public events, projects and services; enticing the young with gifts and money; kidnapping and forced recruitment; recruiting children of Islamic State supporters in Syria and Iraq but also further afield.
As one of the young boys says, “they say come and you will be given money. They wanted to establish religious camps”. He continues, “they told us to come, they play religious songs and give money to tempt young children. They give money once and then you never see the money again”.
During their peak in 2014 and 2015 ISIS recruitment was at fever pitch, many of the youths joined due to the parent’s fear that they would be slaughtered. This mass recruitment provided ISIS militants with a lot of leverage as children who were thoroughly indoctrinated would be able to carry on the caliphate long after the current leaderships probable and eventual downfall.
These ‘cubs’ are often left illiterate, extremely radicalised and psychologically scarred which will make it very difficult to integrate them into schools and society after ISIS’s eventual downfall.