More than 31,000 women living in the Islamic State militant group’s (ISIS) self-styled “caliphate” are currently pregnant, according to a new report on children living under ISIS rule in Iraq and Syria.
U.K-based counter-extremism thinktank the Quilliam Foundation revealed the figure in a report, entitled Children of Islamic State, released on Monday. The estimate of pregnant women under ISIS rule was given by an intelligence official to the President of Quilliam, Noman Benotman.
“That 31,000 women are pregnant in the ‘caliphate’ is very worrying indeed,” says Nikita Malik, senior researcher at Quilliam. “It is imperative that the international community takes a proactive rather than a reactive approach when focusing on these children.”
Other findings in the report include that there are more than 50 children from Britain that are growing up on jihad in the “caliphate,” children are taught a rigid ISIS curriculum where drawing and philosophy is forbidden and the youth are forced to recite Quranic verses before “Jihadist Training” camp.
Girls, known as “pearls of the caliphate,” are not permitted inside ISIS schools, are forced to stay at home and taught from an early age to look after their husbands. Many of the children living under ISIS rule are abducted into joining the group or pressured using fear tactics. They are then taught to propagate the group’s beliefs and injected with extremist values from birth.
The report states that the current generation of ISIS fighters views children as “more lethal fighters than themselves,” better prospects for jihad and the education system within ISIS’s caliphate, which tries to emulate state institutions, seeks to shape “the hearts and minds of the next generation” of mujahideen. Such exposure desensitizes the children to extreme violence, therefore affecting them both psychologically and physically.
“This is one of the gravest situations on earth,” says Benotman. “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.”
Last week, footage surfaced of an ISIS orphanage in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, being used as a training site for the next generation of jihadis. The three-minute-long video, released by ISIS’s Ninawa (Nineveh) Province in northern Iraq, shows the children being looked after and playing and dancing before the footage cuts to a group of children carrying out military exercises at the complex.
They are seen running around a courtyard and doing press-ups on the command of an older ISIS militant. They do leapfrogs and back-flips holding onto swings before the video fades to black.
ISIS has used children in many of its gruesome propaganda videos as “Cubs of the Caliphate,” aimed at Western audiences, such as children carrying out the execution of Russian spies and youths conducting suicide bombings, whether by pressing the detonator outside the vehicle with spies inside, or driving the vehicle itself.