More than 50 ISIL child soldiers killed in Syria in 2015

Child soldiers, Children in conflicts

Child soldiers at an ISIL training camp

More than 50 child soldiers recruited by ISIL in Syria have been killed this year, according to a new report.

They include children under 16 sent to training camps known as “Cubs of the Caliphate” and others given courses in being suicide bombers, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The British-based organisation also reported yesterday that children are increasingly being used by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) to carry out executions.

On the same day, Human Rights Watch criticised the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for failing to meet a commitment to stop using children in battle.

Child soldiers are deprived of many basic human rights – including getting an education. The experience can leave them with psychological problems that can never be repaired,

The Observatory said that its activists could document the deaths of 52 child fighters. They included:

  • 31 killed in July by bombing, clashes and coalition airstrikes on ISIL positions
  • 18 or more who blew themselves up using booby-trapped vehicles

The organisation said more than 110 children had had joined the “Cubs of the Caliphate” since the start of 2015 in ISIL-held areas of Syria. Some had been sent to Iraq.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Press: “This shows that Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIL) is exploiting the suffering of the Syrian people.

“When a child reaches the point of becoming a suicide bomber, this means that he’s been completely brainwashed.”

The Observatory also said it had documented several occasions when children had been used to execute prisoners, including carrying out beheadings.

Human Rights Watch said YPG is still using under-18s as fighters despite a promise last year to stop the practice. It compiled a list of 59 children – 10 of them under 15 – allegedly recruited by or volunteered by YPG or YPJ (its female branch) since July 2014. It said some of those children had died in June. 

Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch, said: “The YPG promised to stop sending children to war and it should carry out its promise.

“Of course the Kurdish forces are fighting groups like ISIL that flout the laws of war but that’s no excuse to tolerate abuses by its own forces.”

Last month a report on children in armed conflict by the United Nations Secretary-General to the Security Council said that the recruitment and use of children in combat in Syria had become “commonplace”.

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