These victims of #Islam’s #sharia were not only punished savagely, but made to have this sick group photo taken later
These victims of #Islam’s #sharia were not only punished savagely, but made to have this sick group photo taken later
A recent spate of videos showing children and teenagers in Syria attending al-Qaeda-linked training camps has raised alarm among activists and observers, who say this practice by al-Qaeda affiliates Jabhat al-Nusra and the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) exploits children and turns them into fighters.
One such video, which appears to show a 4-year-old boy being taught to fire a weapon by fighters from ISIL, has sparked condemnation and calls for immediate action to end this practice.
In the video, posted anonymously on a jihadist website under the header “A message from one of the cubs of ISIL”, the child wears a black mask and fires an AK-47 rifle amid shouts of encouragement from bystanders.
He introduces himself as the namesake of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying he is from Uzbekistan and belongs to ISIL, while men with Gulf accents ask him to repeat the phrase “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”.
Another video shows boys under the age of 18 undergoing military training in an ISIL camp in Deir Ezzor called “Ashbal al-Khilafa” (Cubs of the Caliphate), their faces covered with black masks.
Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, has its own child recruitment camps such as one called “Ashbal Jabhat al-Nusra” (Cubs of Jabhat al-Nusra) in eastern Damascus, as shown in a video it broadcast last week. The video shows dozens of children younger than 10 years old being taught the group’s interpretation of sharia
In a recently-published report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the suffering of children in Syria since the start of the conflict as “unspeakable and unacceptable”.
The February 4th report, which covers the period from March 2011 to November 2013, accuses all parties to the conflict in Syria of committing grave violations against children, and accuses armed opposition groups of recruiting children.
The recruitment of child soldiers in war-time has devastating effects on the psyche of a child, Egyptian child psychologist and Ain Shams University lecturer Enas al-Jamal told Al-Shorfa.
“This child grows up on violence and the use of force, while internally suppressing fear that could erupt at any time after he is moved away from the fighting,” she said.
Children who have been recruited need special psychiatric care and rehabilitation, al-Jamal said.
“However, the difficulty in rehabilitation stems from the fact that they were subjected to comprehensive brainwashing that turned them into killing machines convinced of the legitimacy of murder and suicide via suicide bombings,” she said.
Children ‘have no choice’
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates seek to recruit children for several reasons, said Cairo University psychology professor and family relations consultant Waliyuddine Mukhtar.
“The first is that children, especially those under 10 years of age, cannot think for themselves, in other words they are controlled and have no choice,” he told Al-Shorfa. “Thus, saturating them with jihadist ideology and ideas, especially persuading them to carry out suicide operations, is very easy compared to older [recruits].”
“As a result, years from now, a new generation of youth will emerge and pose a very serious threat not only to Syria, but to surrounding countries as well,” he added.
Al-Qaeda also recruits children because they generally tend to imitate adults in situations of warfare and fighting, Mukhtar said.
These child recruits must be removed from the arena of weapons and undergo rigorous psychotherapy so they can be reintegrated into a family environment and subsequently into the community, he said.
“Otherwise, should the Syrian conflict end without these children undergoing therapy, a generation of criminals will emerge in non-wartime,” he said.
A lost generation
The al-Qaeda camps are an attempt to brainwash children and create a generation that has been taught to use violence and is physically and psychologically prepared to obey orders in the name of “jihad” and religion, experts told Al-Shorfa.
“Al-Qaeda’s focus on spreading these videos and images carries two messages,” said al-Qaeda affairs specialist Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Ahmed, who is retired from the Egyptian military.
“The first urges older youth to volunteer to join its ranks,” he said. “The second brainwashes those who subscribe to its ideology into pushing their children to join the fold under al-Qaeda’s banner as soldiers from childhood.”
In Syria, this practice goes beyond the recruitment of legal minors, Ahmed said, as the ISIL video reveals that now even children under the age of five are being recruited and trained.
News about the setup of training camps for children in Syria, in particular al-Zarqawi’s Cubs, “is a very serious indicator which requires immediate and precise action”, he said.
Al-Qaeda is well aware that shelling these camps is not an option, especially as these children are unaware of what they are doing, “and that is why it has publicised it”, he said.
Orphans and the children of foreign fighters
ISIL fighters set up al-Zarqawi’s Cubs camp in Ghouta, Rif Dimashq, said Tariq Abdo, co-founder of “No more recruitment or use of children in armed action in Syria”, a Syrian youth initiative working on the ground to curb this practice.
“Entering [the camp] or even getting close to it is almost impossible,” he told Al-Shorfa. “The training cycles for children are very long compared to the cycles for young men and adolescents trained by ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.”
No one can say anything conclusive about the identities of these children or their parents’ whereabouts, he said, but the disappearance of many of the children who lost their parents in opposition-held areas “increases the likelihood that ISIL recruited them and merged them with other child soldier recruits at al-Zarqawi’s Cubs camp”.
These groups also recruit the children of jihadists fighting in the ranks of ISIL, including the children of Arab and foreign fighters “who came to wage ‘jihad’ in Syria”, Abdo said.
This has become public knowledge in opposition-held areas, he added.
Abdo’s initiative works with international human rights organisations and the UN to curb this practice and to identify the actual number of child recruits in the ranks of armed jihadist groups, which it estimates is at least 300 at ISIL bases and training camps, he said.
“Many children under the age of 15 were observed performing guard and surveillance duties alongside adult fighters,” Abdo said.
“The matter requires urgent action by countries that care about the Syrian issue to put pressure on these groups to stop these abuses of children,” he added.
Groups such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly condemned the use of children in military operations and have demanded the UN take resolute measures to stop this practice, he said.
“We have kidnappings, abductions, assaults, sexual offences. Anything that you can imagine could happen, does happen, in the name of honour,” says Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for the north-west of England.
And murder – 10 to 12 cases a year. Yet as the hyper-active, smartly dressed lawyer concedes in his Manchester office, violence invoked in the name of family honour, mostly by citizens of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, is often hidden and unreported.
Mr Afzal knows about honour, having grown up in Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim household.
Honour, he says, can be a good thing, helping bind families and communities together.
But, “at the moment in so many communities, in so many families, it is merely used to suppress women, to oppress women. So, if they misbehave in some way, or make their own choice, they have dishonoured the family. If men do the same, well it’s men – you know they do what they want. Regrettably too often it’s used to control women.”
After World War II, Britain received waves of migrants from its former colonies in India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh.
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others came, some for higher education, but mostly to work in the factories around London and in the Midlands and north of England.
In England, generations who self-identify as Asian now number more than 4 million, 8 per cent of the English population.
‘In the name of the father, the son, and the male members of the family’
Arranged marriages are a still a feature of migrant communities, with parents agreeing that their children will marry, particularly first cousins. But for teenagers growing up in the United Kingdom, torn between the strictures of home and the freedoms of 21st century Britain, arranged marriages too often become forced marriages.
“There are probably between 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriages in the United Kingdom every year,” Mr Afzal says.
“We prosecuted more than 200 cases last year of honour-based violence. What we have here are crimes in the name of the father, the son and the blessed male members of the family.”
Currently there is no law against forced marriage in the United Kingdom. That will change early next year, with new legislation similar to that introduced this year in Australia.
Hundreds of young girls disappear from British schools every year
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a unit devoted to trying to prevent young people, mostly girls and women but also boys and men, being compelled to travel abroad to marry someone whom in many cases they have never met.
The Forced Marriage Unit handled 1,485 cases last year, 35 per cent of them involving teenagers aged 17 or younger. One of its biggest problems is trying to track down people who travel to South Asia and never return.
Mr Afzal says a British government survey of school pupils highlighted the problem.
“They discovered hundreds and hundreds of young girls, and by that I mean 11, 12, 13-year-olds, who would just disappear off the school rolls.”
While it is illegal in the United Kingdom for anyone to marry under the age of 16, marriages involving children still happen in South Asia and the Middle East.
Sometimes girls do not return to Britain until they are pregnant, the theory being that this may assist the process by which the husband seeks residency in the United Kingdom.
Girl told to ‘put a spoon in your knickers’ at airport to avoid being sent abroad
Jasvinder Sanghera, who escaped a forced marriage by running away from her Sikh family home in Derby at the age of 15, formed Karma Nirvana 20 years ago to help people in trouble.
She says the Leeds-based charity has received more than 30,000 calls since 2008.
“To me that’s a drop in the ocean … it could be quadrupled,” she said.
Ms Sanghera recalls an occasion when a girl feared she was being taken abroad against her will.
“The call handler said, ‘Put a spoon in your knickers. When you go through security it will go off and at that point you’re going to be stopped by a security guard and say I’m being forced to marry’. Which is exactly what she did, and it saved her life.”
Campaigning on the issues of forced marriages has given Ms Sanghera a high profile, an MBE, a meeting with prime minister David Cameron and with countless senior police and other government officials. And yet she believes schools, police and communities are not taking forced marriages and honour-based violence seriously enough.
“If you are Asian and missing from education, the same questions are not asked as [of their] white counterparts here in Britain,” she said.
“And that has not changed because we know there are hundreds going missing off our school rolls. Maybe they’re not being forced into marriage, but the point is, ask the question and look into it. They’re not even doing that.”
As for police: “There are some police forces which are doing sterling work now and trying to get it right. On the ground it’s a different story. There are 43 police forces across the UK and I would refer to potentially four [getting it right]. You know, it’s very much dependent on the person you get on the day.”
British police have been severely criticised for their failures in a series of high-profile honour killings:
• Banaz Mahmud, 20, strangled on the orders of her father and uncle
• Surjit Athwal, 27, murdered on the orders of her mother-in-law and brother-in-law
• Shafilea Ahmed, 17, suffocated by her parents.
In each case, police initially, and in some cases repeatedly, failed to comprehend the seriousness of the threat.
As Ms Sanghera tells trainee detectives in Birmingham, relating the Banaz Mahmud case: “She told police her family was planning to kill her because she’d left an abusive marriage and was seen kissing a man outside a Tube station. And she was not believed. She was dealt with as being melodramatic, fantasising.”
Just a month later she’d been raped and garrotted, her body packed in a suitcase and buried in a garden
Honor Diaries, a film about women’s rights, features nine courageous women’s rights advocates with connections to Muslim-majority societies. These women, who have witnessed firsthand the hardships women endure, are profiled in their efforts to affect change, both in their communities and beyond.
The film gives a platform to exclusively female voices and seeks to expose the paralyzing political correctness that prevents many from identifying, understanding and addressing this international human rights disaster. Freedom of movement, the right to education, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation are some of the systematic abuses explored in depth.
Amid cries of ‘Allah o Akbar’ (god is great), a young boy, barely 12 years old, lifts his machete and strikes at his victim who is lying on the ground, all tied up for the kill.
Waving a ‘V’ for victory sign with his right hand, the boy picks up the severed head and shows it around to the chants of applause from an audience gathered in a remote part of the region straddling the mountainous range which divides Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The performance in this chilling episode which may simply shock most people around the world, is the case of militant justice meted out to supposed traitors. It involves Al Qaeda and the Taliban slapping exemplary punishment to an individual suspected to be a spy for the government.
“This (boy) is a killing machine who has been indoctrinated from age nine and prepared for his act by the time he is 12” says a Pakistani intelligence official who showed the video clip to CBS News as just one piece of evidence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban training young boys to become accomplished killers, even before they become teen-agers.
This video has been captured by Pakistan’s military troops during their operations in the country’s semi autonomous tribal areas, as they went from village to village, searching for militant sanctuaries.
In the village of Spinkai-Roghzai where a group of journalists including CBS News were taken by Pakistan’s military on Sunday in the Waziristan tribal region, officials showed debris of what is described as a suicide training ‘nursery’. Under a pile of bricks lay the remains of an oil extracting factory which was a cover for training young boys to become ideologically charged up.
“There is no harm in taking ‘jehad’ (holy war) for the right cause” read the sign board in a training class, documented in yet another Pakistani intelligence video, secretly captured ahead of the operation, through the use of hidden cameras inserted around the front compound of the school. A teacher, who wrapped himself up to his face with a piece of cloth, pointed towards a list of “recommendations for students” while surrounded by teenagers, urging them to embrace virtues such as “accept the way forward through sacrifice” and “accept that laying down your life for the right cause is not a waste”.