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Camp Jihad: Slushies, Fairground Rides, And Shari'a Law


A screen shot from the recently released Islamic State propaganda video.

A screen shot from the recently released Islamic State propaganda video.

What could be more fun for children than a camp with fairground rides, kebabs, slushies -- and lectures about jihad?

A new video released on April 20 by Islamic State (IS) shows the group using child militants to indoctrinate their peers at a daw'ah or outreach camp in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The video, titled Daw'ah Caravan for the Cubs of the Caliphate, shows a group of children, including at least two in wheelchairs, looking on as a militant lectures them about Islam and jihad. Most of the children in the audience are boys, though in one shot a young girl in a hijab can be seen.

Armed "guards" -- young teen boys carrying guns -- stand in front of the crowd of children.

After the adult militant finishes speaking, it is the turn of a series of young boys, all clad in military fatigues, to take the floor and show off their knowledge and oratory skill to the audience.

One of the boys, who appears to be under the age of 10, is shown wearing a black headband with the "shahada" -- the Islamic creed --inscribed in white, mimicking the Islamic State's Black Standard flag.

The young audience seems impressed by the child militants' performance with some taking photos of the performers with cellphones.

Other footage shows some of the other attractions IS has laid on for those attending the Cubs of the Caliphate Daw'ah camp: bright red and yellow slushie drinks, doner kebabs, and what appears to be freshly baked pitta bread.

The Mosul daw'ah is not the first event for children held by the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

The earliest of these to be documented was a video released by IS in July 2013, showing a Ramadan family event in the Syrian city of Aleppo. That event featured fun activities such as an ice cream eating competition for boys, a tug of war for adults and the distribution of propaganda leaflets and black flags.

In August 2014, IS disseminated more images of its attempts to win the hearts and minds of children, this time using a giant blue bouncy castle that it had laid on for youngsters in Al-Mayadeen.

While the August 2013 video featured children showing off their skills in Koran recital competitions, this latest video is apparently the first to show IS getting its child militants to indoctrinate their peers at such an event.

Charlie Winter, a researcher at the London-based counterextremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, told RFE/RL that this was the first time he had seen such a "daw'ah caravan."

However, Winter said that IS propaganda about its indoctrination of children is not new.

"IS regularly boasts about its indoctrination of children, but usually with videos clips or radio interviews dealing with specific schools and/or military training camps. Evidently, these children are products of such indoctrination," Winter said.

The video showing the daw'ah "caravan" follows reports that IS militants have recruited hundreds of children into its ranks.

Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said last month that it has documented at least 400 children who have joined IS in Syria between the start of this year and March 23.

SOHR said that the extremist group has opened offices for the Cubs of the Caliphate in several IS-held cities, including Al-Mayadeen and Al-Bokamal.

According to SOHR, IS's Cubs of the Caliphate offices work to recruit children to the extremist Sunni group from among those who attend schools and mosques near IS bases.

Children who attend public execution-style killings, such as beheadings, crucifixions and stonings. "Cubs" are also recruited by persuading parents to send their sons to IS-run camps.

Winter said that IS features what the group calls the “next generation of the lions of the Caliphate” in its propaganda "because they help project the idea that [IS] is truly implementing the Caliphate project, not just talking about it."

IS has featured child militants in far more sinister roles than simply attempting to preach to their peers.

In two videos, for example, child militants have been shown apparently carrying out execution-style killings of IS captives.

One of those videos features a young boy, possibly an ethnic Kazakh, who appears to shoot two men in the head at close range. The men had been accused by IS of being Russian spies.

The second video shows a child shooting 19-year-old Muhammad Musallam, a Palestinian man IS accused of being an Israeli agent, in the head. The child militant was later identified as a French citizen.

And while IS appears to be laying on a fun event for the Iraqi children attending the IS "daw'ah caravan" in Mosul, the reality of life in the Iraqi city is far from the "utopian" image presented in the video, the Quilliam Foundation's Winter says.

"It goes without saying that the utopian feel to footage like this, that of relaxed children playing in the streets and people unanimously coming out in support of IS, is a refined, contrived image of what life in IS-held territories is like, and not necessarily reflective of the realities," Winter said.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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