31,000 Women Pregnant in Islamic State –

Quilliam Releases Report on Children in the Caliphate 

7 March 2016

Quilliam releases seminal report on Children and Islamic State, in partnership with The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and UNESCO.

Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam, combines fieldwork with in-depth research from Quilliam’s Senior Researcher, Nikita Malik.

Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam, says “This is one of the gravest situations on earth. Children are the key to the future. Indoctrination in Islamic State begins at birth, and increases in schools and training camps. Children are instructed in a particular interpretation of shari’a, desensitised to violence, and learn specific skills to take up the banner of jihad.”

Nikita Malik, Senior Researcher at Quilliam, states “That 31,000 women are pregnant in the “caliphate” is very worrying indeed. This report fills the gap in research on children in Islamic State. It is imperative that the international community takes a proactive rather than a reactive approach when focusing on these children.”

Some findings of the report reveal:

  • There are currently 31,000 pregnant women in Islamic State.
  • As many as 50 children from the UK are growing up on jihad in the “caliphate”.
  • Children are normally abducted into joining Islamic State. However, Islamic State also pressures children to join the group out of fear.
  • Children assist in meeting the present needs of the “caliphate”, and can continue to propagate the state’s existence and expansion once they grow up.
  • The current generation sees children as better and more lethal fighters than themselves. Rather than being converted into radical ideologies, children are indoctrinated into extreme values from birth.
  • Boys learn a rigid Islamic State curriculum. Drawing, philosophy and social studies, the ‘methodology of atheism’, have been eradicated. Children churn out memorised verses of the Qur’an and attend ‘Jihadist Training’, which includes shooting, weaponry and martial arts. Girls, known as the ‘pearls of the caliphate’, are veiled, hidden, confined to the home, and taught to look after husbands.
  • Children’s prolonged exposure and desensitisation to violence affects their physical and psychological well-being, both in the short term and in the long term.

From August 2015 to February 2016, Quilliam documented 254 instances of children being used in Islamic State propaganda. These have been organised into the five categories: participation in violence, normalisation to violence, state building, utopia, and foreign policy grievances:

  • The largest amount of Islamic State media featuring children relates to violence, comprising either of children directly participating in violence, or being exposed and normalised to violence.
  • Islamic State’s wilayats in Iraq have released the most images showing children and teens in combat and acting as suicide bombers.
  • In the last six months, Islamic State propaganda depicts 12 child executioners, and one child participating in a public execution.
  • Islamic State’s wilayats in Syria depict more children as executioners — an attempt to project strength in the face of heavy airstrikes — whereas wilayats in Iraq release the most images of children in combat or acting as suicide bombers.

Based on these findings, the report proposes a thorough assessment process for children who return or escape from Islamic State. Some of these recommendations include:

  • The creation of a ‘Commission to Protect Future Generations from Radical Violence’ to oversee effective monitoring and re-integration of children within the EU. A flow chart of projected policy pathways involving judicial proceedings, placement, and DDR(R) on a case by case basis can be found on page 72 of the report.
  • The establishment of a support network, administered by a local NGO and funded by individual states, to coordinate an array of community actors and specialists in ensuring the successful and sustained reintegration of children.
  • The facilitation of deradicalisation procedures that aim to bring children out of the lifestyle they have adopted, and pay ample attention to the physical and psychological trauma caused by conflict.
  • The construction of re-education procedures that focus on debunking the credibility of Islamic State ideology, and replacing these narratives with positive alternatives.
  • The formation of network programmes to engage communities for input regarding children, and involving them in joint initiatives focusing on educational forums or career advice.

Dr. Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Dallaire Initiative, writes “The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is proud to partner with the Quilliam Foundation on the creation of this report”.

“This report makes a valuable contribution in understanding the complex environment in which children are used, recruited, and radicalised in conflict settings.  It thoroughly explores the methods by which they have been co-opted into participation. Ultimately, this report presents a way forward, including clear and tangible policy recommendations.” says Mark Brennan, Professor and UNESCO Chair in Community, Leadership, and Youth Development.

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