child soldiers, ISIS, Islamic State, Syria, Mosul, Raqqa, Deir al-Zour

“The trainer said if I didn’t do it, he’d shoot me.”

In a move eerily reminiscent of the holocaust, ISIS has declared babies born with Down syndrome and other physical or mental disabilities are to be killed, according to Mosul Eye, an Iraqi activist group from the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul.

An Islamic State Sharia judge, Abu Said Aljazrawi, has issued an ‘oral fatwa’ on all disabled children, ordering the execution by suffocation or lethal injection of babies as young as one week old. Upwards of 38 have been killed so far, all aged between one week and three months.

“Through monitoring and following the death incidents of children with Down syndrome and congenital deformities, we were able to learn that the Shar’i Board of ISIL issued an ‘oral fatwa’ to its members authorizing them to ‘kill newborn babies with Down syndrome and congenital deformities and disabled children,” said a spokesperson from Mosul Eye.

“As if it is not enough for ISIL to kill men, women and the elderly, and now, they kill children.”

The majority of children murdered so far are borne of foreign fighters who have married Iraqi and Syrian women. According to a video released by Mosul Eye revealing the horrific practice, the formulaic executions are taking place in Mosul, and in parts of Syria.

This is not the first time ISIS has targeted children, whether in the context of genocide or recruitment. Thousands of girls and women of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq, some as young as nine or ten, are being bought and sold in sex slave markets in the self-proclaimed ISIS capital, Raqqa. They are raped and beaten multiple times a day.

In addition to this, ISIS militants are recruiting children into the ranks of the fighters. After befriending young boys on the streets of Mosul, Raqqa, and Deir al-Zour with toys and games, ISIS kidnaps them, and puts them into terrorist training camps. Also pulled into the ranks are young boys ripped from the same Yazidi communities as the girls sold into sex slavery.

Syrian boys in a refugee camp in Reayhanli.  (Procyk Radek /

Syrian boys in a refugee camp in Reayhanli. (Procyk Radek /

A video emerged earlier this month depicting child recruits playing a horrifying game of hide-and-seek. The chilling propaganda tool is titled, ‘To the Sons of Jews’.

The video depicts children wearing balaclavas, and hunting for prisoners among ancient relics before shooting them at close range. The executions were filmed around Deir Ezzor, near the Iraqi border. Five men are shot, while one is beheaded.

The recruitment of children by ISIS is becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year, the Associated Press spoke to Yahya, a 14 year-old Yazidi boy who had escaped one of the notorious training camps. ISIS claims they have hundreds of these bases throughout Iraq and Syria. The boy revealed he had been taught how to behead prisoners using a sword and a doll. Prior to this, children are shown videos of human beheadings, and told they will also perform them one day.

“They taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels,” said the boy, renamed Yahya by his kidnappers. He also says he will never forget the videos of the beheadings.

“I was scared when I saw that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to behead someone like that. Even as an adult.”

Yahya was captured with his little brother, their mother, and hundreds of other Yazidis when the Islamic State seized the Iraqi town of Sulagh in August 2014. They were taken to Raqqa, where the boys aged between eight and 15 were put in the Farouq training camp, and forced to convert to Islam.

He spent nearly five months in Farouq, and trained eight to 10 hours a day. The training included exercise, weapons drills, and studying the Qur’an. Yahaya was told the Yazidis were “dirty”, and deserved to be slaughtered. He was taught how to shoot someone from close range, and had to hit other boys in some training routines. Chillingly, he was forced to punch his 10 year-old brother in the face, knocking out a tooth.

“[The trainer] said if I didn’t do it, he’d shoot me,” Yahya stated.

“[They] told us it would make us tougher. They beat us everywhere.”

In addition to the Yazidis, ISIS primarily targets Sunni Muslim children in ISIS-controlled territories. Raqqa, Mosul, and Deir al-Zour are prime recruiting grounds. Militants show children and teens videos at street booths, gaining their trust with candy and toys. They seek to brainwash a new generation of Islamic State fighters, in a characteristically insidious attempt to restore the world to the original caliphate; a ‘pure’ state of Islam.

Comment: Do you think the rest of the world need to do more to help the children of Raqqa?