A Syrian boy recently recounted to CNN that he was only 13 years old when ISIS said that he should attend one of their children’s camps in northern Syria.
The Independent reports that in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, children as young as 10 are being recruited for ISIS training camps.
“My friends and I were studying at the mosque, and they taught us that we should enroll in jihad with the [Islamic state],” said Mohammed, whose name had been changed out of fears for his safety.
“I wanted to go, but my father did not allow me to,” he said.
When ISIS discovered that Mohammed’s father had prevented him from attending the camp, the terrorist group sent a patrol to their house.
The boy’s father, who declined to be named, told CNN that the patrol told him, “If you prevent Mohammed from coming to the camp, we will cut off your head.”
Thus it came to be that Mohammed attended the camp, where, for 30 days, Mohammed says “we woke up and jogged, had breakfast, then learned the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet.” Throughout the rest of the day they had courses on weapons “and other light military stuff.”
Aside from the training, some of the militants made the boys witness hideous crimes.
Mohammed recalls that sometimes young kids would be brought to the camp; campers would then be made to watch “heads [be] cut off, lashings or stonings.”
“We saw a young man who did not fast for Ramadan, so they crucified him for three days, and we saw a woman being stoned [to death] because she committed adultery,” he said.
The boys would take oaths of allegiance to ISIS’ leader, and were considered ready to fight once they completed the religious and military courses taught at the camp.
Mohammed’s father repeatedly tried to visit his son, but was turned back by guards who told him that the boy was not there. Eventually, the father was able to pull his son out of the camp and the family fled to Turkey.
Mohammed said that one of his friends at the camp has been killed on the front lines of ISIS’ war with more moderate rebel groups.
“He was martyred in Deir Ezzor when he fought the Free Syrian Army with ISIS,” Mohammed said, noting that the friend was about his age—13 or 14 years old.
While Mohammed says that he understood some of the lessons he learned at camp—like the importance of prayer and fasting—he didn’t understand others, like why should fight the so-called “infidels.”
Furthermore, he said that many of the teachings ISIS attempted to impart upon the young campers contradicted with his own understanding of his religion.
“I love my religion because I am a Muslim,” he said. “And I used to go with my father for the prayers before ISIS came. But my father has taught me that religion is not about fighting, but it is about love and forgiveness.”
Investigators from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called Syria—and its estimated 2.9 million refugees—the “world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe”.
Photo Sources: The Independent