Since the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, the West has been shocked by the terrorist group’s extensive use of children as soldiers and suicide bombers. Even more concerning, however, is that through indoctrinating young people into the organization, the Islamic State ensures that its legacy is self-sustaining.
The young soldiers from Iraq and Syria total over 1500 and are best known for their haunting roles in Islamic State propaganda videos showing the execution of infidels or a child taking his or her own life in the name of the Islamic State. Undertaking the most dangerous missions, in the eyes of the Islamic State, these children are not seen as adolescents but as soldiers, just like other jihadists. A study conducted by researchers at West Point found out that of 89 recorded child-soldier deaths, nearly 33% of those killed were foot soldiers and nearly 39% died while detonating a vehicle with an IED device.
While in many Western countries youth are often denied responsibility and are distinguished from adults in court, youth in the Islamic State are deemed capable of handling the weight of their lives.
The concept of indoctrinating young children into the ranks of the Islamic State has been seen as the tactic of a state hoping to train the next generation of jihadists for future missions, as opposed to the short-sighted visions often associated with non-states. The Islamic State is ensuring that even if it is defeated by the West, children, who have another semi-century of life, will carry on a legacy of radical terrorism. Now, not only must the West fight to preserve the present state of Syria and Iraq, but also fight to stop the spread of radicalism across generations.