FROZEN: A group of children, some masked, stood in rank-and-file form in front of the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham’s “Registration Office” in the Aleppo province town of al-Bab in a photo published on a pro-ISIS account Wednesday.
The ragged children, some wearing T shirts and jeans, others in combat fatigues, were reportedly photographed taking a pledge to the Al-Qaeda affiliate.
“May God give them strength,” wrote an ISIS combatant naming himself al-Simsim. The children are “racing to join the ranks,” he writes in a Twitter post.
Children have become fertile recruiting demographic for ISIS, according to international reports and activists on the ground.
“ISIS has stationed many children younger than 18 at their checkpoints,” opposition activist Mohammed Badr a-Din told Syria Direct Thursday.
“In the battle for Azaz, it was noticeable,” said a-Din, referencing clashes between rebel groups and ISIS in the northern Aleppo town. “Three months ago, [ISIS used] a boy younger than 17 to explode the Bab a-Salam border crossing.”
ISIS, which has been in violent conflict with other rebel groups throughout northern Syria since earlier this year, retains control of the Aleppo province towns of al-Bab, Jarablus, al-Raee and Menbej.
A pro-ISIS account shared a photo of the ISIS-controlled Aleppo province town of al-Bab Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Twitter user @abo_kodama.
The United Nations has decried the use of child soldiers by all parties in the Syrian conflict, exacerbating the “unspeakable suffering” of children in three years of violence.
“Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations, including using terror tactics, in civilian-populated areas, leading to civilian casualties, including children,” read a United Nations report on children in Syria published this past February.
On social media, ISIS combatants and followers frequently share news and photos of the extremist group’s state-building projects in the cities, towns and villages under its control, announcing new ministries and infrastructure projects in the towns.