Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Child Soldiers Who Escaped ISIS

Boys, Teenagers Tell of Lessons in Beheading, Weaponry at Training Camps
Jomah, a 17-year-old Syrian who joined Islamic State last year, sat in a circle of trainees for a lesson in beheading, a course taught to boys as young as 8.
Teachers brought in three frightened Syrian soldiers, who were jeered and forced to their knees. “It was like learning to chop an onion,” Jomah said. “You grab him by the forehead and then slowly slice across the neck.”
Ismail (17) talks about his experience fighting for Islamic 
State, in an interview in the southern Turkish city of 
Gaziantep. Tara Todras-Whitehill for The WSJ
A teacher asked for volunteers and said, “Those who behead the infidels will receive gifts from God,” recalled Jomah, who didn’t want his full name revealed. The youngest boys shot up their hands and several were chosen to participate. Afterward, the teachers ordered the students to pass around the severed heads.
Murad (15) says he was abducted and indoctrinated by 
militants from the self-styled Islamic State, along with 
some 150 other schoolchildren from Kobani, Syria.
Ayman Oghanna for The WSJ
“I’d become desensitized by that time,” said Jomah, who has since defected to Turkey with his family. “The beheading videos they’d shown us helped.”
The enrollment of hundreds of boys in such militant training camps is another tragic facet of Syria’s nearly four-year-long civil war—and its impact could trouble the Middle East for years to come. Parents worry their boys will be forever lost to the indoctrination of Islamic State.
The militant group, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq, has remade the secular education system in territory under its control, leaving families to choose between a radical Islamist education or nothing.
Islamic State religious schools in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Deir Ezzour—where, for example, chemistry has been replaced by religious studies—have become a conduit for recruiting boys to the fighting ranks, five former child soldiers and several adult militants told The Wall Street Journal in Turkey, where they are refugees.
One of them, 17-year-old Ismail, said he was ordered this summer by his Islamic State superiors to help behead every male ages 14 to 45 from an enemy Syrian tribe in Deir Ezzour. The teenager said he balked, but his 10-year-old brother took on the job with zeal. Activists said hundreds were killed.
Ismail, who was wounded on the first day of battle, said he defected in August and fled to Turkey without alerting his brother. He worried that his brother—who joined Islamic State at age 9—would tell. Deserters are killed, Ismail said.
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