Usaid Barho, a 14-year-old Iraqi boy, recently surrendered himself to Iraqi officials after he was forced to accept the mission of a suicide bomber. He says Islamic State recruited him, forcing him into violent service. He chose suicide bombing over combat because he thought it would be the best chance to defect from IS.
Barho says that IS recruited him and others from a mosque in his hometown. He disclosed this information in an interview with The New York Times.
Barho says that IS brainwashed him and other children into believing that Shiites were killing and raping Sunni people and that they needed to be killed. IS threatened the children by saying they would rape their mothers.
While Barho admits that he willingly ran away from home to join IS, he realized his mistake right away and did not want to be a part of the violent group. After intensive physical and mental training the child soldiers were given a choice between suicide bombing or fighting.
Barho said, “I raised my hand to be a suicide bomber,” because he thought that role would give him a chance to defect.
After a long trip that included multiple safe houses and guides, Barho ended up in Baghdad with a Shiite mosque as his target. He walked up to the front gates and “I opened up my jacket and said, ‘I have a suicide vest, but I don’t want to blow myself up.'”
An officer immediately cut the vest off of Barho, who is now in an uncertain place. He still wants to be a doctor but it is unclear whether he will be treated as a criminal or as a helpless child soldier. He has been described by Iraqi officials as a victim of IS and many do not want to prosecute him as a criminal.
IS uses child soldiers in a vast array of ways. The United Nations recently wrote, “ISIS prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life.”
Sources: New York Times / Photo Source: New York Times