• A shocking look inside the I.S. caliphate and its disturbing system of indoctrination and abuse that begins with children. (SBS Dateline)
A shocking look inside the I.S. caliphate and its disturbing system of indoctrination and abuse that begins with children.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 21:30

exual slavery, suicide bombings and forced killings.

For many young children in I.S.-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria, this is what they’re exposed to daily.

Earlier this year the Iraqi army, Kurdish militia and Western forces retook control of most of the city of Mosul, after more than two years of I.S. rule.

Once parts of the city were liberated, survivors of the I.S. regime told of methods leaders of the self-proclaimed caliphate used to indoctrinate the city’s people and in particular, its young people.

One disturbing report details training camps for kids, where children as young as 12 – so-called ‘cubs of the caliphate’ – are tutored to become soldiers. They’re taught how to plant explosives and use firearms, made to appear in propaganda videos and forced to adhere to strict daily routines.

In this week’s Dateline we enter what’s left of the I.S. caliphate in Mosul and talk to children once trained to kill or trafficked by jihadis for sex.

Ayad, who was 12-years-old when he was taken to an I.S. camp, explains his typical daily routine as child soldier.

“We were woken up at 4am,” he says. “We had to wash and pray. After prayers, we had circles to read the Koran and then came training. We were taught to plant explosives.

“It was introductory training. They said that with bombs, your first mistake would be your last. They’d beat us with electric cable if we didn’t learn our lessons. They fired close to our feet to make us run faster.”

Ayad, a Kurdish Yazidi, was taken to the front lines to fight against his own people. He was also forced to feature in a propaganda video for I.S.

Three young siblings who spoke on condition of anonymity, were forced to brutally dismember and kill a man. They were told if they didn’t they would all be killed, along with their mother. One of the children has since developed violent tendencies.

The use of young children from these camps in battle has been corroborated by those on the front lines.

“IS sends children at our troops to blow themselves up in suicide bombings,” said one Iraqi soldier. He believes many are between the ages of 10 and 15.

This abuse of children is not restricted to combat-based methods.

Many young girls, especially those from religious minorities, are kidnapped to become as sex slaves or domestic servants. An informant who managed to escape the caliphate showed Dateline evidence of online markets, where jihadis buy and sell minors – some as young as six.

“Deflowered slave for sale, age 13,” one of the ads reads. “Body: slim, tall. Price: $9,000.”

Mosul residents who faced other ever-present threats or indignities while living under I.S. rule speak of a totalitarian system of abuse.

A janitor at a local school said I.S. snipers would regularly be posted on the upper floors of the building. Schools were essentially turned into recruitment centres – textbooks were censored and the basic classroom curriculum was changed to focus on jihadism. Several young kids Dateline: “[They taught us] one bullet plus one bullet equals two bullets. They told us to be jihadis…come and fight in the ranks of Islamic State.”

A schoolteacher who fled during I.S.’ control of Mosul said objects used in basic math exercises – like cups of coffee or animals – were replaced with machine guns or swords.

“It’s a disaster for children,” he says. “Children are mentally impregnated with this ideology.”

While the battle for control of Mosul continues, for many children who’ve survived these traumas the scars wil never go away.

“It will be impossible to forget what has happened to me,” Ayad says. They’ve done a lot of damage to me and to society as a whole.”

“Future generations won’t forget this disaster, these massacres.”

Watch the full story at the top of the page.


Sexual violence against the Yazidis is part of IS's genocide campaign
Does the self-proclaimed Islamic State's campaign of violence against the Yazidis constitute genocide?
Children are being used as easy weapons of propaganda by terrorist organisations
Why are children increasingly used in propaganda campaigns?
Women are being traded as slaves on WhatsApp
Phone messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram are being used to trade and sell sex slaves and hold slave auctions.
How the Islamic State recruits and coerces children
An inside look at the tactics I.S. use on children to groom their next generation of fighters.


Reporter: Sofia Amara

Camera: Cyril Thomas, Philippe Lagnier

Story Editor: Manuiel Guillon

Producers: Capa Presse

Associate Producers: France Télévisions

Additional Voiceover: Sarah Abo


Mosul, the self-proclaimed capital of the IS caliphate. As Iraqi soldiers lead a major offensive to liberate the city, they discover who they're really fighting. 

SOLDIER 1 (Translation):  Right now, children are fighting for IS against us in battle for Mosul.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  How old are they?

SOLDIER 1 (Translation):  Between 10 and 15, no more. IS sends children at our troops to blow themselves up in suicide bombings.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  How do you know they are children?

SOLDIER 1 (Translation):  You can tell. A boy without a beard is still a child or a teenager.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Can we get out and film?

SOLDIER 1 (Translation):  No, that is impossible.

This city was in IS hands for over two years. But here in the east, civilians now walk free. Survivors tell of a brutal IS system aimed at indoctrination. Children are the starting point. The janitor of a recaptured local school shows us around. 

JANITOR (Translation):  It’s okay, no explosives.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Are you sure it’s safe?

He carefully guides us inside as many buildings are booby trapped. 

JANITOR (Translation):  IS posted snipers on the upper floor.

In the headmaster's office, we find textbooks covering subjects tolerated by IS.

JANITOR (Translation):  These are schoolbooks.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  This one is chemistry?

JANITOR (Translation):  And this one is maths. This is biology.

The material has been heavily censored. In biology, the human body is not depicted.  Education is reduced to a few pages.  Outside, former students reveal these schools as recruitment centres.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  What did they teach you?

CHILD (Translation):  They told us to be jihadis.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Being jihadis means waging war?

CHILD (Translation):  Yes, waging war.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  What else?

CHILD (Translation):  One bullet plus one bullet equals two bullets. “Come and fight in the ranks of Islamic State. We are here to stay.” So we stopped going to school.

Under IS, war is a subject of learning and it starts at a very young age. This teacher has arrived at the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Mosul. He worked for six months under the regime.  Horrified by the forceful approach, he felt he had no choice but to flee.

TEACHER (Translation):  Look, this is math for Year 2 primary. These were the exercises before IS came, classifying objects by size or by group. They replaced the objects with machine guns, swords, handguns, airplanes. It's a disaster for children.

CHILD (Translation):  A handgun?

TEACHER (Translation):  See? He interrupted me to say "handgun". This child should not be able to recognize such things. Children are mentally impregnated with this ideology.  To influence them, IS has developed ignorance but not only that, ignorance, intimidation, terror, killing, beheading, decapitations and corpses on display in the street.

As the Sunni population in Mosul face indoctrination and brutality, other religious groups have been hunted down. Thousands of Yazidis have been massacred by IS, with women abducted and children forced to convert and fight. Here at the Rwanda refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, many are former IS captives, like 14-year-old Ayad. 

AYAD (Translation):  We were woken up at 4am. We had to wash and pray. After prayers, we had circles to read the Koran, and then came training.  We were taught to plant explosives. It was introductory training. They said that with bombs your first mistake would be your last.

Ayad was only 12 when IS sent him to a training camp to become a child soldier. He was the unwilling star of a propaganda video filmed in Raqqa, Islamic State's stronghold in Syria. 

AYAD, VIDEO (Translation):  My nation, the dawn is looming. Behold, victory is at hand. Islamic State is born from the blood of its believers! Islamic State is born thanks to the believers’ jihad…
Here we are learning how to slip into tunnels so that when enemy aircraft bomb us we are safe from shrapnel.  This is me. They would beat us with electric cable if we didn't learn our lessons. They fires close to our feet to make us run faster.

After months of training, Ayad was taken to the front to fight against his own people,  the Kurds. 

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Did you end up believing in them after you were trained?

AYAD (Translation):  No, but they said they would conquer the world. I thought that even if I managed to flee, they would find me and bring me back. There were a lot of them and I was alone. I couldn’t help it, I became like them.

Through fear and propaganda, Islamic State creates an army of obedient child soldiers.  These siblings along with their mother were IS captives for two years. During their captivity, a man was brought to them bound and blindfolded. They were forced into committing a heinous act.

CHILD 1(Translation):  He came along and said “You cut off a foot, you cut off an arm, and you slash his face with a knife, otherwise I'll take you away from your mother and kill you all.”

INTERPRETER (Translation):  How did you feel? Why did you do it?

CHILD 1 (Translation): We were scared to refuse. We were each given a machete. I had to cut his hand off. I did it. He had to cut his feet off. Shadi had to cut his face with a knife.

CHILD 2 (Translation):  I cut off his feet, my sister cut off his hand and Shadi stabbed him around the mouth.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Whereabouts?

CHILD 2 (Translation):  Around the face.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Was he conscious and alive?

CHILD 1 (Translation):  He died when Shadi stabbed him in the eye.

This chilling account is corroborated by their mother. Each sibling bears the scars of their time under IS. Shadi, the youngest, barely old enough to go to school but forced to kill, has been deeply affected. 

CHILD 1 (Translation): One day Shadi held a knife to our little sister's throat. He would have cut off her ear if my mother hadn't stopped him. "What are you doing with that knife?" He said "I'll cut her throat, she's mine." Another time he almost set fire to the tent. My little sister was asleep and smoke was coming out. 

CHILD 2 (Translation):  I slapped him but he whacked me around the head with a big stick.

CHILD 1 (Translation):  He said we had to burn the place down, "like IS said".

They've lived in this refugee camp since their escape. Despite the horrors they've seen, they're unable to get psychological support. Forced to cross the line between good and evil, many children never make it back.

MAN (Translation):  Stop filming, it might go off!

This footage was shot in Kirkuk last August. A young boy is arrested while wearing an explosives belt while police manage to defuse the bomb, he narrowly escapes a lynching by the crowd. 

MAN (Translation):  Stand back! Back off!

BOY (Translation):  Please don’t hurt me!

MAN (Translation):  Don’t be afraid. Back off brothers, please. Back off a moment.

BOY (Translation):  No, don’t undress me!

Seven would-be suicide bombers like this boy were intercepted in Mosul just last week.  Creating child soldiers is not the only way IS steals innocence. This man, who wishes to remain anonymous for his own safety, fled the caliphate, smuggling out two Jihadi cell phones. The information on the phones reveals the disturbing IS slave trade. In chat groups, hundreds of Jihadis buy and sell minors as young as 6 years old.

WITNESS (Translation):  Here, for example, a jihadi ad, “Deflowered slave for sale. Age: 13. Body: slim, tall. Price: $9,000. Another, “Virgin slave. Age: 11 to 12. Price: $11,000.” They put makeup on them, to sell them quicker and at a higher price. These are auctions; this one starts at $10,000. Jihadis make bids of $100 or $500 until the girl is sold.

A virtual market known as Caliphate Mall features audio messages from sellers to undecided buyers. One man uses a sales pitch as he would with any other product.

MAN (Translation):   Hi, friend, the slave has been de-flowered but she's 14. Her beauty? 70 out of 100 or even higher. Since being a slave she's only been sold twice. She hasn't been in the hands of many brothers. One brother had her for a while, the other didn't even touch her, didn't penetrate her. I'm pretty certain of that.

Rape is condoned, even officially encouraged, by Islamic State.  Under IS rule, the legal age for marriage is 9. This means sexual exploitation of minors is written off as a marital issue. But, in this transaction, there's a hitch - the girl is only 7. The buyer seems put off.

MAN (Translation):  “How old is she? Seven.” She is too young for the $7000 asking price.”

MAN 2 (Translation):   “True, but she already has periods and pubic hair.”

WITNESS (Translation):  Pubic hair fits the official selection criteria. It means she is ready for sex, for copulation.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Even though she is not yet nine?

WITNESS (Translation):  Yes, even though she is not yet nine. If a fighter goes to tribunal and can show that a girl under 9 shows the first signs of puberty, the tribunal gives him the right to have sex with her or sell her.

Kidnapped, abused and forced to marry. This is the reality of IS sex trafficking. Bahzad Fahan is a Yazidi who is doing something about it. Nicknamed the Liberator, he works with a resistance network within the caliphate to smuggle out these child hostages.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  Look, these are children. Child…child…child.  Over 2000 children, boys and girls, have been taken hostage, killed fleeing, or in mass executions when they are over 15. They are sorted before they are killed, any boys with fair hair in their armpits are regarded as men and old enough to die.

So far, Bahzad has rescued over 100 children.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  This is a family spread across the 4 corners of the Caliphate. The parents are missing. This is one of their daughters;  She's in Dier ez-Zor, in Syria. According to the latest information, she's been put on sale for marriage. This is her brother, Akram. He's 9. He’s being held in domestic servitude in Raqqa, Syria.

These siblings are his latest case.  Currently scattered across Syria and Iraq, he wants to rescue them before it's too late.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  This is little sister Joumana. She's less than eight years old and a slave in Mosul.

Two weeks later, one of the siblings, 6-year-old Joumana, is smuggled out of Mosul by Bahzad's network. Her mother was murdered by IS so she is reunited with distant cousins and they're convinced she's been abused. 

COUSIN (Translation): She’s tried many times to kill herself, sometimes she leaves the tent in the middle of the night and we have to force her to come back. She behaves violently towards neighbours’ children.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  How did she try to kill herself?

COUSIN (Translation):  By fire, immolating herself.

Every day, this medical centre sees children who have survived IS.

GALAVECH, PSYCHOTHERAPIST (Translation):  Hello and welcome, my name is Galavech.

COUSIN (Translation):  Shake the doctor’s hand.

GALAVECH (Translation):  How are you? Are you well?

COUSIN (Translation):  She is afraid at night and talks about awful things.

Like most who come here, Joumana struggles to express her suffering.  But her behaviour and drawings quickly speak volumes. 

GALAVECH (Translation):  You want to cover them up? You want them to be hidden? What are they afraid of, Joumana? Are they afraid or ashamed?

The expression on the face indicates terror. The eyes are staring wide, he arms stretching out wide, it's an appeal for help. In fact this child has come back in a critical condition. She has obviously been subjected to some serious things, either inflicted on her directly or she has witnessed rapes on other children. Maybe she has herself suffered these awful things.

The recovery process will be a long one for Joumana.  Back in Kurdistan, Bahzad has received word Joumana's brother is also about to be smuggled out of Raqqa by the underground network.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation): This is Akram. We have already liberated his sister, who is under seven. The job is time-consuming. Their place of confinement is closely guarded. The smugglers have to find the best way to get them in to the free zone. It's highly dangerous but we have to do all we can to save as many people as possible.

At the border, it's a long wait, but then Bahzad spots Akram and there's a problem.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  Hassan, apparently they won’t hand Akram over.

The Yazidi militia, who control this area, will only hand over Akram to a member of his family. 

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  Akram has no family, all he has is distant cousins on his father’s side.

Bahzad tries, instead, to sway Akram reminding him of his little sister.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  Akram, I’m the one you spoke to secretly on the phone in Raqqa, let’s go and find Joumana.

AKRAM: Joumana? Joumana’s in Raqqa.

BAHZAD FAHAN (Translation):  No, she is safe with us.

But the Yazidi fighters refuse to hand him over.

AKRAM (Translation):  Stop kissing me! It’s a sin.

WOMAN (Translation):  A sin? No, sins are over. That’s in the past. He is going to stay with us.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Where?

WOMAN (Translation):  He’ll stay with us until a relative comes for him.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Who is “us”?

WOMAN (Translation):  Us, the comrads, he is with comrads. Goodbye!

Today, all Akram has done is change sides.  While many never escape the chaos of war, Ayad, the former IS soldier, is one of the lucky ones. The Yazidi teenager is being reunited with his family in Germany. 

AYAD (Translation):   I'm sad to be leaving my homeland, Iraq, but happy to be going back to my mother, to my friends and my family. I have lost my childhood. Too much despair, too many problems for such a young child. It really was too much. I was happy in my former life but I've lost my childhood.

WOMAN (Translation):  Let me embrace you.

MAN (Translation):  Say hello to your family.

Ayad hasn't seen his family for two years. 

AYAD (Translation):  It will be impossible to forget what has happened to me. They've done a lot of damage to me and to society as a whole. Future generations won't forget this disaster, these massacres. The days and month have gone by and I'd say there remains in me 40 to 50% of that past.

INTERPRETER (Translation):  Can you purge yourself of it?

AYAD (Translation):  We'll have to wait and see.


sofia amara

cyril thomas
philippe lagnier

story editor
manuel guillon

capa presse

micah mcgown
simon phegan
david potts

titles music
vicki hansen

11th July 2017