ISIS Open English-Language Schools in Caliphate Capital

Raqqa
A boy stands during a protest against the U.S. airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) in Raqqa, September 26, 2014. Stringer/ REUTERS

ISIS has reportedly opened the doors of its first two English-language schools in the group's de-facto capital Raqqa, according to activists.

Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, who is part of the undercover group in the city, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, shared an image on social media of a flyer advertising the schools for the "English speaking Muhajiroon", which revealed the schools would be open for children aged from six to 14 years old.

Raqqawi wrote that the schools - one for boys and one for girls - would be for "teaching to foreign fighters' children". The boys' school is reportedly called Abu Mus'ab Zarqawi School in honour of the dead terrorist, who at one time was one of the most wanted people in the world as leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq between 2004 and 2006. In a 2004 leaked audio recording, Osama bin Laden called Zarqawi the "prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq".

The advertisement also appeals for part-time or full-time teachers who would teach maths, English language and religious lessons, such as 'Jihadiyyah', in English and lessons on the Quran and Arabic language in Arabic. School days would start 9am and finish at 12pm and the school week would run between Saturday and Wednesday, the flyer adds.

While the leaflet could be seen as an attempt to attract more foreign fighters to the group's caliphate, which straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border, Judith Jacob, a terrorism analyst at the geopolitical risk consultancy The Risk Advisory Group, explained that the group may be playing to western fears in an attempt to show that it functions like a state. Reports have already emerged about the creation of ISIS's own currency and passports.

"There's probably a small demand for English language education. A lot of people who do travel to Syria and Iraq from the West may not even speak Arabic," Jacob says.

"The flyers show that ISIS is aware that the English language press, and the West in general, is concerned and plays to that fear that there is a critical mass of people flocking to them. It plays to the idea of the group establishing themselves as a legitimate state entity that provides the services of a state, such as education."

While these new establishments are the first English-language schools in ISIS's caliphate, the terror group have schooled children before. Last October, a video entitled the Blood of Jihad 2 emerged via ISIS-affiliated accounts showing children, aged around 10, being trained for combat.

The reported creation of the jihadi academies comes as English-speaking citizens continue to flock to the Middle East to join the terror group. It is feared that three British schoolgirls - Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16 - all travelled to Turkey last week with the intention of going to live in the Islamic State.

They departed after Shamima was contacted by Aqsa Mahmood, 20, who had travelled to Syria from Glasgow in 2013 to become a 'jihadi bride'. British authorities have now arrived in Turkey in an attempt to find and rescue the teenage girls. The Mahmood family released a statement through their lawyer labelling their daughter's actions "beyond the pale".

"They are not sure how much more misery that Aqsa can inflict on her own family but the fact that she is now accused of destroying other families is beyond the pale," they said.

ISIS Open English-Language Schools in Caliphate Capital | World