Propaganda video posted online by the radical Islamic State movement (ISIL) publicises training boys for war.
One of the camps is in Raqqa in northern Syria, where 14-year-old Al-Yas Ahmed Raghib, a Yazidi, in his seven months at the so-called Farouq Institute for Cubs was forced to adopt Islam. He escaped with his 11-year old brother and 63-year old mother.
Al-Yas said: “They taught us how to slit throats and how to blow ourselves up. We put our hand on the forehead, lift the head, put the knife to the neck and slaughter. Then there is the thing strapped around our waist… We are told to pull up a white piece of metal attached to it and it will immediately detonate. We are also taught to pull the pin on a hand grenade and throw it immediately, or we will be caught in the explosion.”
ISIL says openly it wants to eliminate the Yazidi religion, which is based on ancient Iranian traditions, not Christian, Jewish or Islamic.
Al-Yas, now in Qadiya Refugee Camp in the northern Kurdish city of Dohuk, said:
“When a person completes training at the camp, he is sent to another one, where training is more strict, before being sent to fight in Kobani. They tell us we will fight Yazidis and kill them because they are infidels, and if you die you will go to heaven and they will go to hell.”
Yazidi groups have reported ISIL mass executions, rapes, enslavement and the abduction of children to the International Criminal Court.
Ahmed Hamada Shihab spent two months at the same camp as his cousin Al-Yas before escaping with his aunt.
Ten-year-old Ahmed said: “We were more than 80 Yazidi children at the camp, in addition to Muslim children… age five up to 15. My 15-year-old cousin is still there. We were trained from morning to evening. Photos and videos of us were published on Facebook. We were taught religion. Anyone who can’t learn is punished, including beatings and standing in the sun. They got us up at four in the morning for prayer. They keep watch and punish anyone who doesn’t wake up. We got very little food. We ate one meal a day.”
Ahmed was captured with his family and thousands of other Yazidis when ISIL seized their ancient hometown of Sinjar in northern Iraq last August. The militants use young women as sex slaves; the boys are taught to kill their own people.