ISIS Using Children For War and Propaganda

ISIS has released a new series of propaganda videos, one of which features a 10 year old boy, Yousef, who states that he is an American.  He says that his father is a former American military member, and that he and his family moved to Syria two years ago.  With propaganda, the truth does not matter as much as the emotions which the propaganda engenders, and this video is no different.

ISIS’ propaganda is meant to convey the message that they are in the fight for the long term, as evidenced by the fact that children are involved.  That is to say, there is a new generation rising up who will continue their “jihad,” or “struggle.”

Yousef is shown with another boy, Abdullah, who is 7 and comes from the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq.  This area was populated by the Yazidi people and was captured by ISIS in 2014.  Both boys are depicted as “brothers” in jihad and shown handling weapons.  Yousef also reads a message to President Trump that the fight will be brought to U.S. soil.

The use of Yousef and Abdullah is part of a disturbing wider trend.  ISIS, like other terrorist groups, consistently uses children as part of its operations, both in support and fighting roles.  Research shows that children are being used as fighters alongside adults, being integrated into the same units.

A study of ISIS operations from January 2015 through January 2016 showed that ISIS had reported 89 children as “martyrs.”  Of these, they died in the following ways:

  • 39 percent died while “detonating a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) against their target”
  • 33 percent died as active participants in ground operations
  • 18 percent died in “marauding operations in which a group of mostly adult fighters infiltrates and attacks an enemy position using light automatic weapons before killing themselves by detonating suicide belts”
  • 6 percent died while embedded with ISIS fighters as propagandists
  • 4 percent died in suicide attacks against civilians

Most of these children died in Iraq, followed by Syria as the next most common location (Yemen, Libya, and Nigeria are also represented).

In addition to the horror that the use of child soldiers creates in Western minds, American and allied forces will, unfortunately, have to deal with situations in which children are increasingly used to attack them.  Furthermore, as ISIS seeks to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States and other Western countries, they will likely attempt to use children in these attacks as well.




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Aaron Simms

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