By turning the youth of its enemies into the militant group’s future soldiers, ISIS is brainwashing a generation of Iraqis and Syrians in an attempt to ensure its own future.
CRAWLEY, West Sussex, U.K. — As Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants have moved ahead with their expansion campaign across the greater Levant, with an eye increasingly turned toward Turkey, Jordan and southern Iraq, observers have warned that the group has developed an elaborate radicalization program which targets children.
While ISIS has been proactive in its ever-extensive quest for fresh recruits in recent months, often using technology and social media as radicalization tools to manipulate young fragile minds, the militant group seems to have now turned its attention toward the children of Iraq and Syria, keen to enforce its violent and flawed interpretation of Islam onto those who live under its yoke and thus deepen its recruitment pool.
For those civilians ISIS has chosen not to randomly execute on account of their faith, another fate awaits them: a life spent in internment camps, where forced conversions, religious rehabilitation and slavery are the new normal.
The children of ISIS
A former school teacher from Mosul-turned journalist and rights activist Laith Abbas told MintPress News that he believes ISIS’ decision to “brainwash Iraq’s children” is yet another ploy to transform the region’s religious make-up through fear and coercion.
“This forced conversion of the mind is as pernicious as it is immoral. We are losing our children to this evil … our religious heritage is being re-written by radical monsters. People of all faiths stand to see to lose their history as their children have been lost to them.”
He added, “Our children have become this war’s new frontline. This is a serious development, as our future, well, actually the region’s future, stands in the balance. Iraq and Syria have been turned into terror incubus, our children are being fed terror and taught violence … God knows if we will recover as a people from such a nightmare.”
Fears that ISIS is manufacturing the next generation of terror jihadists have been shared by observers and rights activists alike across both Syria and Iraq, where the group has established its strongholds. Yet ISIS has become much more than a terrorist group: It is a destroyer of civilization. Muslims and Islamic scholars of all denominations have denounced ISIS’ ideology, asserting their profound disagreement with and condemnation of the group’s violent methods and systematic targeting of religious minorities.
Speaking against the human rights violations and abuses committed by ISIS against civilian populations in Iraq, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein noted that the forced enrollment of children into the group’s ranks has become a source of grave concern.
In a statement directed at Baghdad, Hussein wrote, as reported by The Daily Mail:
“ISIS atrocities ‘include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.’”
ISIS terror camps
In a move reminiscent of Nazi Germany, ISIS has set up internment camps across the areas under its control to receive, train, and educate hundreds and thousands of Iraqi and Syrian children of all faiths. These children in the hands of ISIS are the victims of a disturbing new form of religious mass-indoctrination.
A report published by the U.N. Human Rights Council in August confirmed that ISIS “systematically provides weapons and training for children,” adding that the group set up training and internment camps in Aleppo and Raqqa — areas under its control.
Further, the report states, “According to an account about an ISIS training camp in Al-Bab (Aleppo), ISIS actively recruited children from the ages of 14 or 15 to undergo the same training as adults, offering financial rewards. At the camps, the children recruited received weapons training and religious education.”
More than just meat for the canons, ISIS’ child recruitment campaign is quickly taking the form of religious re-education — yet another means for radicals to exert not only their control over civilians but to ensure future loyalty.
The goals of the ISIS leadership extend beyond simply gaining control of the region — they want the region to reflect ISIS ideology. To this end, ISIS is embedding itself onto children’s psyches, remodelling their belief systems and bending their moral compasses to the group’s dogma.
A generation lost to terror
In a 2002 medical report published on religious indoctrination, whereby children are made to suffer psychological and physical harm so their belief systems can be reshaped and so they will develop amoral and/or socially reprehensible behavioral patterns, clinical psychologists discussed the severe repercussions such abuse could have on children.
While the study was not related to terrorist brainwashing, per se, it clearly states that any such form of psychological abuse will carry long-term effects for the victims and lead to asocial behavior, violence, psychosis, depression and learning impairments.
Syrian child psychologist Nura Fadel told MintPress that ISIS training camps and the group’s “unforgiving teaching methods” are “bound to deeply and severely affect children’s physical, emotional and psychological development.”
She explained, “When children as young as 7 years old are made to experience death and violence on a daily basis, as well as constant radical religious reinforcement, their mind will quite literally disconnect from reality. This break can turn into psychosis. But more importantly, those children will become carriers of ISIS’ doctrine … they will end up adopting their oppressors method of thinking … Indoctrination is difficult to break.”
A retired military officer in Baghdad, Hassan Allawi warned against the group’s radicalization scheme, noting that ISIS had perfected the psychology of war by turning the youth of its enemies into the group’s future soldiers.
“Our children are being violated in the vilest imaginable ways possible … If Western countries worry about returning jihadists, what about Iraq and Syria’s children? Our youth is being lost to terror. We have been swallowed whole by a monster which fights its battles in our children’s minds,” Allawi said.
Following in Wahhabis’ footsteps?
Abdel-Kareem Al Sharjabi, a historian and religious cleric from Yemen, told MintPress that ISIS’ methods and techniques eerily resemble that of Wahhabi militants in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century, a time when Wahhabism was still considered a religious aberration.
“Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, professed the use of violence and terror as successful methods of coercion against civilian population. In between 1792 and 1801, Wahhabi militants destroyed, killed and pillaged some of the holiest and biggest cities of Islam – Karbala, Medina and Taif,” he explained.
Wahhabism came to Al Hijaz — as Saudi Arabia was formerly known — in the 18th century. At that time, the British Empire sought to keep both the Ottoman and Persian empires in check by exploiting religious indoctrination. Since colonial Britain could not gain the upper hand militarily, its leadership devised means which would, from the inside out, weaken and destabilize those regions and powers it intended to enslave and control.
It was under the influence of one man, an alleged British agent named Mohammed Abdel-Wahhab, that Al Hijaz would come to adopt — by force, it should be noted — an ascetic and extreme interpretation of Islam. As the Al Saud dynasty established its dominion over Al Hijaz, Wahhabism became the sole state religion. All others schools of thoughts were automatically deemed reactionary, heresy or both.
Speaking of the forced conversion of Al Hijaz, Al Sharjabi emphasized:
“It was Al Zahawi, an Islamic historian of the time who reported, ‘They [Wahhabis] killed everyone in sight, slaughtering both child and adult, the ruler and the ruled, the lowly and the well-born. They began with a suckling child nursing at his mother’s breast and moved on to a group studying Koran, slaying them, down to the last man. And when they wiped out the people in the houses, they went out into the streets, the shops, and the mosques, killing whoever happened to be there. They killed even men bowed in prayer until they had exterminated every Muslim who dwelt in Ta’if and only a remnant, some twenty or more, remained.’”
“ISIS has taken a page from Abdel Wahhab’s playbook and turned history into a new reality,” Al Sharjabi continued.
“First they destroy, then they rule through fear before they finally infiltrate mainstream thinking through re-education. What was once radical becomes the new norm … This is how new doctrines are born,” he concluded.
Prisoners of a faith they no longer recognize as their own, Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq are reportedly appalled and terrified by the ravages being carried out by ISIS. While many have said they feel powerless in the face of such evil, all have sworn that ISIS speaks not in their name. Even President Barack Obama noted, “ISIS speaks for no religion.”
With their freedom disappearing at lightening speed, Syrians and Iraqis do not know how long they can manage to keep this darkness of the mind at bay, especially when schools and state institutions have fallen under the control of the black banner.