Most children living under Islamic State rule in Raqqa do not go to school. School buildings have been converted into IS military sites, sit empty, or are converted into “Cubs of the Caliphate” camps.  

What the Islamic State calls schools under its purview more closely resemble indoctrination camps where children are instructed in techniques such as carrying out executions.  

The “only purpose is brainwashing the children and the curricula even include ‘military-style’ physical training,” Hamoud al-Mousa of the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently media campaign tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou.

Parents keep their children at home rather than subject them to the IS “curriculum.” Still, children face their own pressures, as those who have joined the Islamic State show off their weapons and encourage their peers to join. 

“The prevailing culture in Raqqa has become one of weapons and violence.”

Q: The Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently Facebook page recently published a photo showing a young boy selling bread on the side of the road. Is this type of child labor common? How do children usually spend their days in Raqqa?

Given that there are no schools in Raqqa, the city’s children have few options. Most stay inside all day as their families prevent them from going outdoors out of fear for their lives. Those who do go out do so to work or sell different items to earn money for the family. Also, many children have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State out of this necessity.

IS has published a number of videos showing public executions carried out by children working with the organization in addition to videos of children engaged in military training in the so-called “Cubs of the Caliphate” military camps.

Q: According to what you are saying there are no schools in Raqqa, however, the media has discussed at great length the opening of IS-run schools after the closure of the local schools. Can you explain?

It’s true that there are some schools that teach IS curricula, however, most people do not send their children because IS’s schools are really military camps disguised as schools. Their only purpose is brainwashing the children and the curricula even includes “military-style” physical training.

Q: Have you seen any impact from the situation in Raqqa on children’s behavior?

Of course there has been an impact. The prevailing culture in Raqqa has become one of weapons and violence. Kids are naturally jealous and the young people from outside the city boast and show off their weapons to encourage other children to join IS.

Reported by Orion Wilcox.