The use of children in armed conflict dates back to Biblical times. During World War I and II, it was not unusual to find children in the ranks of many armies. It was not until 1989 that the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed, proclaiming “state parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take direct part in hostilities.” Although efforts have been made to prevent the use and recruitment of children, armed groups continue to violate international law by doing so. Today it is estimated there are between 250,000 and 300, 000 children participating in active conflicts around the world. While most people imagine children being used in armed conflict in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, it is quickly becoming a problem within ISIS.
Because of the fighting in Iraq and Syria, children are no longer attending their normal schools. This means they are out on the streets where they can easily be recruited by ISIS. Children are taken to camps where they learn about ISIS' interpretation of Sharia Law and how to handle weapons. Military training goes so far as to teach young men how to behead another human being. Children are sent to the front lines of fighting to be used as human shields or to provide blood transfusions for IS soldiers. In some areas, children are manning checkpoints and arresting locals who do not conform to ISIS' rules.
Why is ISIS using children? Children are easily manipulated. Because they have not developed their own ideas and morals, it is much easier to convince a child that murdering those who are not like you is what God wants. Many armies will not fire against children. This is a tactic that has been used by terrorist organizations, militias, and rebel armies throughout Africa for years. The goal is to prevent foreign fighters from shooting the members of your group by sending children to the front lines.
Vice News recently published a five part video on ISIS; part two is titled Grooming Children for Jihad: The Islamic State Part 2. In this video, children as young as nine are interviewed telling the the person behind the camera that they want to become jihadists. Another boy is shown saying he plans on going to camp after Ramadan to learn how to use a Kalashnikov rifle. ISIS is hoping that children like these will continue to fight for many generations. By indoctrinating children with their moral code and ideals, ISIS is ensuring that there will be people willing to fight America and its allies for many years to come. This only complicates the situation for America: the US cannot allow such a threat to go unanswered, but are US officials willing to fire at children who have been brainwashed into thinking their actions are legitimate?