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Iraq: Islamic State recruiting children as young as 12 as fighters

Parents of children who lived under Islamic State (IS) rule in Iraq have revealed that boys as young as 12 were recruited as fighters from schools where they were taught how to behead people and make suicide bombs.

*Hamid, 45, with his son Karam, who went to school under ISIS for two months

One million children living under IS

We estimate that more than one million children have been living under IS rule in Iraq. They have either been out of school or forced to learn from an IS curriculum.

One parent told us that said girls were not allowed to go to school. But, scared for their safety, most parents kept their boys at home too, despite pressure from IS.

For many children, this lasted over two years.

IS teach children “how to cut heads off”

Hamid (above) has five children. He said: “They would tell children how to make bombs.

“When children came out from the school there was a big TV in the garden where they were showing propaganda: how to kill and how to make suicide bombs and how to cut heads off.

“We told them… you should not believe it. This is not the right Islam. We were guiding our children to make sure they didn’t believe everything they were taught.”

Recruited at school

Father of four, Karim (below) said children as young as 12 were recruited by IS at school. Children told Karim that they were taken to an IS base for 40 days. They were “trained” and taught that is was Halaal (permissable) to kill army people.

“They used to take about 50-100 children for each programme. A lot of children obeyed IS and then they were killed in fighting.”

Forced to choose: education or safety

Karim said his children lived in constant fear. “It’s difficult for my girls, they were very scared, crying all the time, shaking.

He doesn’t want to keep his children out of school. “I want my children to get educated, and get a job. The most important thing for them is to read and to write.”

Karim and his children fled his home town just south of Mosul City, Iraq, when the fighting began.

Getting back to school

These families are among the 33,000 people forced to leave their homes by the ongoing battle for Mosul city between Iraqi forces and ISIS. The parents we spoke to are now based at Jad’ah camp, south of Qayyarah, in Northern Iraq, where we have built temporary classrooms there.

Our Iraq country director, Maurizio Crivellaro, says that the excitement of children of palpable: “As soon as we set the classrooms up, they were already gathering outside and peering in curiously.

“Judging by the big smiles on their faces, they knew this is how school should be and they were excited to get back to normal.

“Children and parents tell us that during times of crisis, education is their priority. They tell us it’s the key to their future and it can’t be delayed. These children have missed out on enough of their childhoods.”

No parent should have to choose between their child’s safety and their education.

Donate now to help us get children fleeing IS back in school

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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