By Mara Revkin
The Islamic State’s recruitment of children has been extensively and graphically documented. The militant group has used children as young as 7 as combatants, messengers, drivers and guards. Islamic State propaganda videos depict juvenile executioners from its “Cubs of the Caliphate” unit shooting prisoners at close range. Although the Islamic State has become notorious for its systematic indoctrination and use of children, media coverage has largely failed to acknowledge that it is but one of many armed groups in Syria and Iraq that have recruited underage girls and boys.
In a new study for United Nations University, I analyze patterns of child recruitment by 10 of the major armed groups participating in the geographically linked conflicts in Syria and Iraq. I found that while children’s pathways into and out of armed groups are rarely linear and their roles are fluid, we still see several patterns.
The many factors of child recruitment in complex conflicts
The study includes evidence from in-depth interviews with 144 individuals, including 16 children and 33 adults currently or formerly associated with armed groups, and a pilot survey of 45 Iraqi children detained in a juvenile reformatory in Irbil on charges of joining the Islamic …read more
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