Saturday, July 23, 2016


Features

'IS Babies' -- The Chilling New Trend Among Islamic State Militants

A young baby wearing an Islamic State headband. This photo was posted on the Russian social network VKontakte by a man named Artyom from Kazakhstan who says he is fighting for IS.
A young baby wearing an Islamic State headband. This photo was posted on the Russian social network VKontakte by a man named Artyom from Kazakhstan who says he is fighting for IS.
By Joanna Paraszczuk

The baby in the photograph above grins happily at the camera, his brown eyes wide open in delight and his white jersey showing the remains of a recent meal.

It could be a picture taken by any proud parent -- except this baby's father is a militant who has dressed him up to look just like his daddy.

His father, an Islamic State (IS) fighter from Kazakhstan named Artyom, has tied a black headband around his son's forehead. Like the IS flag, it bears the Islamic shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, in white. 

The photo was posted on the Russian social network VKontakte on July 14.

Artyom is not the only Russian-speaking IS militant to post pictures of "IS babies" on social media recently. The sharing of baby and toddler photos has become a disturbing new trend among IS recruits who've come from the Russian Federation and Central Asia.

That IS militants are having babies in Syria is hardly surprising, as foreign fighters are settling down in Syria and Iraq and are encouraged to marry. Many others, like Artyom, brought their children with them to IS-controlled territory.

But these babies are now being used by their fathers to prove they are "good" IS jihadists.

Militants are sharing pictures of themselves holding their babies or toddlers and praising them as "future mujahedin." In many cases the babies have been dressed up to look like tiny militants -- or even given guns to hold.

The trend is particularly fashionable among North Caucasian militants from the Chechen-led IS fighting faction Katibat al-Aqsa.

One Chechen militant, Mansur Shishani, was photographed in May posing with a toddler, who appears to be his son, named as Askhab. Both Mansur and the toddler are holding guns. 

Mansur Shishani and a toddler posing with guns
Mansur Shishani and a toddler posing with guns

Another Katibat al-Aqsa militant, Zakaria Kureish, posted a photograph of his two babies with the caption, "My children are growing up in the caliphate," a word used by IS to describe the lands under its control. 

Zakaria Kureish's picture of two children with the caption: "My children are growing up in the caliphate."
Zakaria Kureish's picture of two children with the caption: "My children are growing up in the caliphate."

But it is not only rank-and-file militants who have posted photos of themselves with babies and toddlers.

The infamous Tajik militant Nusrat Nazarov (alias Abu Kholidi Kurobi) had a photograph of himself taken wearing military fatigues and a black beret with an IS logo, while holding a baby. Nazarov was reported killed in Syria earlier this month. 

And the leader of Katibat al-Aqsa, a Chechen named Abu Umar Grozny, has photographed himself holding his baby daughter, whom he dressed in a camouflage-patterned head scarf.

Using Babies In Recruitment

IS militants are also using photographs of "IS toddlers" for recruitment purposes.

The pictures of toddlers in military fatigues, jihadist headbands, or carrying guns are used to target would-be fighters who have yet to travel to Syria to join IS. The message is clear -- and creepy: in IS-controlled territory, even toddlers are taking up arms and are therefore more "manly" than those who stay at home and don't fight.

A Daghestani militant named Muslim Derbentsky, who claims to be in the Iraqi town of Ramadi shared a photo of a toddler with a gun on VKontakte on June 27. Underneath the picture, Derbentsky has written, "Where are the men??? By Allah!!!...IF YOU ARE A MAN, RISE UP AND SAVE YOUR UMMAH [the global community of Muslims]." 

Daghestani militant Muslim Derbentsky's social media post calling on people to join Islamic State uses a picture of a toddler with a gun
Daghestani militant Muslim Derbentsky's social media post calling on people to join Islamic State uses a picture of a toddler with a gun

Another image, in Arabic but widely shared on pro-IS Russian social networks, is highly stylized and shows a toddler carrying a gun while holding the hand of an adult militant. The caption reads, "an image from the land of the legends."

A toddler used in an Arabic recruitment poster for Islamic State. The image has been widely shared on Russian social networls
A toddler used in an Arabic recruitment poster for Islamic State. The image has been widely shared on Russian social networls

Bleak Future

The future for the babies and toddlers shown off in the photographs is bleak.

Unless they are killed in fighting, or unless Islamic State is dislodged from the wide swaths of land it has captured in Syria and Iraq, the male babies of IS militants will undergo military training and ideological indoctrination from a young age.

An indication of what could be in store for Artyom's baby can be found in another photograph his father posted this week, which shows a group of Central Asian boys dressed in military uniforms. All look under the age of 10. 

Unless Islamic State is defeated before they are tweens, IS will likely recruit them as "caliphate cubs." The group continues to use children under 18 as front-line fighters -- and even as suicide bombers and to carry out execution-style killings.

Should they survive to join IS's "caliphate cubs," most of the babies and toddlers photographed above will lose their militant fathers in battle. Mansur, the Chechen militant photographed with a gun-toting toddler, Askhab, was killed in late May.

It is not clear what has happened to Askhab, but it is likely he will remain in Syria. Islamic State considers babies born to its militants to be IS property and has refused to let women whose husbands were killed in battle leave the territory it controls unless they leave their children behind. 

Most Popular

Editor's Picks