In a chilling report, a filmmaker from Vice News who embedded himself for a number of weeks with the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria, shows how the extremist jihadi group is indoctrinating children to hatred and violence (see video below).
“For us, we believe that this generation of children is the generation of the caliphate. This generation will fight the infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies, God willing. The right doctrine has been implanted in these children,” says an Islamic State member who is running a “training camp” for children. “All of them love to fight for the building of the Islamic State and for the sake of God,” he says.
“Abdullah the Belgian,” as he is called, travelled to Syria with his young son, who he has brought to the camp. As the camera rolls, Abdullah crouches down next to his son, who appeared to be about the age of six or seven.
“Why do we kill the infidels? What have the infidels done?” he asks his son.
Self-conscious in front of the camera, the child answers, “They kill Muslims.”
“All the infidels? Like the infidels of Europe?” his father asks him.
“The infidels of Europe. All the infidels,” he son answers dutifully.
The father continues, “What do you want to be, a jihadist or to execute a martyrdom [suicide] operation?”
“A jihadist,” says the young boy.
Once more the topic returns to killing infidels. Abdullah asks his son, “Why do we kill infidels? What have the infidels done?”
“They kill Muslims.” The boy says, looking to his father, as if to say, “Did I say the right answer?”
The Islamic State has set up its children’s camp on the bank of the Euphrates river. Cooling off during the long, hot days of Ramadan, the men of the Islamic State, play with boys in the water. But while it may be fun and games for the children, for the men, it is serious business.
Abu Mosa is the Islamic State’s press officer. Speaking to the filmmaker, he says he lives for the war all the time. Asked about his home and family, Mosa says, “I don’t go [home] at all. The family, honestly, is the least important thing. There is a higher purpose. No one will defend the Muslims if we all sat at home with the family.”
Speaking on the banks of the river while others play, Mosa explains how the children will be “educated.”
“Those under 15 go to a sharia camp to learn about their creed and religion. Those over 16, they can attend the military camp,” he says.
When asked if the children participate in military operations, Mosa answers, “Yes, those who are over 16 and were previously enrolled in the camps can participate in military operations, because Usama Ibn Zaid (the adopted son of Mohammed) led an army when he was 17 or 18 years old … against the Romans.”
Fourteen-year-old Daoud, who has just enjoyed a swim, is put in front of the camera. “In the name of God …,” Daoud says, “I’d like to join ISIS [the Islamic State] and kill with them. Because they fight infidels and apostates.”
Daoud looks to the side, perhaps at someone off camera for approval. He continues, “The Islamic State, they haven’t done anything wrong and God willing they will not. We love the Islamic State.”
Another child, aged nine, explains that he is going to a training camp after Ramadan ends. When asked on what will he be training, he proudly answers, “The Russian [Kalashnikov rifle].”
When asked the purpose of the training, he says, “To fight the Russians, America. The infidels.”
The interviewer points out to him, “You are quite young. Do you know how to use a gun? Have you shot a gun before?”
The nine-year-old answers, “Yes.”
At one of the many celebratory rallies held by the Islamic State in Raqqa in honor of the group’s declaration of the establishment of a new caliphate, one can see scores of children and young boys. Waving huge Islamic State flags prominently, the children smile and listen to testimonials given by the group’s followers. The children also stand with weapons next to adults who are similarly armed.
The rallies serve as important recruitment opportunities for the Islamic State. There is entertainment as well as testimonials. A man sings, “Beautiful virgins are calling, enroll me as a martyr.”
Another man takes the microphone to tell his story:
“I lived in Europe for 25 years, but I always wanted to go to Muslim lands. We left our children and we left the pretty women. We said goodbye to them, we came to the land of honor and jihad. This is where I feel at ease, 100 percent.”
Tellingly, the man continues, shouting,“ I noticed that only the children say hello to us, and they send us kisses from far away. When old people look at us with a frightened look, they don’t know that we are the best people on the planet. After the prophets, come the Mujahideen!”
At the end of the event, the crowd is asked to pledge their allegiance to the head of the Islamic State, the self-declared caliph, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi.
With their arms raised in a Nazi salute, children and adults recite, “We pledge allegiance to the prince of the faithful, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “ The crowd is told, “When I shout ‘the Caliphate,’ you say ‘established.’ “
The crowd complies, many times.
The video ends with chilling footage of prisoners held by the Islamic State militants, who say they are waiting to be whipped by the group. The camera cuts to an Islamic State official who stops a man on the street to ask him if a certain woman is his wife. When the man answers yes, the official tells him that she must change the fabric of her veil. Explaining to the filmmaker, the official says, “So, we advise in a nice way, but those who don’t obey will be forced.”
Watch documentary filmed inside the Islamic State