Mosul’s Child Soldiers: Volunteers for Extremist Group as Young as 10
Much to the horror of the city’s adults, children and teens in masks, carrying guns, are becoming an increasingly common sight on Mosul’s streets. NIQASH meets ISIS’s youngest recruit – he’s ten years old – and asks the city’s youth why they think it’s so glamorous to fight for the Sunni extremist group.
It was a surprising sight. The customers standing in Haj Hamdoun’s store in central Mosul watched as a masked child came into the shop, buy what he wanted without saying a word and then leave again, carrying a bag containing candies and milk in one hand and a heavy machine gun, that was just about as big as him, in the other.
This was Abdullah, who is apparently the city’s youngest volunteer with the Sunni extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, that took control of Mosul over two weeks ago.
Abdullah is not yet 11 years old. But his older brother and his father, who was a senior member of ISIS, were killed in fighting between the extremist group and Iraqi security forces in 2013. That’s why Abdullah joined ISIS.
The storeowner, Hamdoun, says he has actually become used to seeing Abdullah wandering around, carrying his big gun with both pride and difficulty. He has also seen the boy on guard duty together with other ISIS fighters in front of the new ISIS headquarters in Mosul, originally the home of a government official.
A curious bystander wanted to start a conversation with Abdullah. “I have a son your age but he’s not eager to carry arms,” the man said. “He spends most of his time on the computer.”
A tall, overweight gunman, who seemed to be responsible for the child, answered on Abdullah’s behalf. “Our children don’t waste time on electronic games or on watching cartoons,” he said. “They have a dream and their dream is to establish an Islamic state.”
The gunman patted Abdullah’s shoulder. “We have a lot of hope for Abdullah and other children his age,” the gunman continued. “We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem.”
Abdullah may be the youngest volunteer with ISIS but he is not the only child or teenager to have become enthusiastic about bearing arms for the extremist group in Mosul. As soon as ISIS arrived here, they began to attract new members, mostly teenagers and young men aged between 10 and 30, who were drawn to the glamour of the group’s obvious power and the adventure of joining such a well-armed gang.