Terrorism, the recruitment of underage children in armed

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Last updated: June 20, 2019

Terrorism,being a widely present phenomenon is not easily summarized into concepts andanalysis. According to Jackson et al. (2011, p. 2) “terrorism is notstrictly an abstract academic field of study, but now infuses and impacts uponvirtually every aspect of modern life”.

(book: Terrorism: A criticalintroduction 2011 edition by Richard Jackson,? Lee Jarvis,? JeroenGunning.) Thus, it is nowadays difficult to comprehend and explain terrorism asa single variable. To explain this widespread measure in its entiretyresearchers use the systems thinking approach. Researcher Kim H.

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, D. (1999), in his paper on the introduction tosystems thinking explained how systems worked together in interdependent partsto form a whole concept which in turn helps us perceive and better understandthe situation or environment around us. Similarly researchers and authors havemany times explained the concept and causes of terrorism through  different factors in the environment. Thepresent essay aims to incorporate the use of systems thinking approach in orderto explain  the most important causes ofchild terrorism. The use of child terrorists and/or child soldiers is a complexsystem which comprises of many interconnected variables/elements (Mendelson, E,M.

(2008) A SYSTEMS UNDERSTANDING OF TERRORISM WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY).  Inthe previous years, where terrorism has risen so have the number of childterrorists as well as child soldiers. The only difference between the two beingthe way they are recruited (Mia bloom, the wire..

https://thewire.in/64133/cubs-of-the-caliphate-how-isis-coerces-children-into-its-fold/.) Children are dying at the hands of otherchildren. Even though since 1979 the United Nations and other governmental andnongovernmental organizations have raised issues and concerns about therecruitment of underage children in armed conflicts (Rachel Brett, (2002)Juvenile justice, counter terrorism and children- children and security 3rdedition) yet a huge number of underage children are found among terror groupsand armed forces (The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion by Bernd Beber andChristopher Blattman (International Organization 67, Winter 2013,)). Accordingto data noted from the article on child soldiers by Singer W, P.

(2005)( fromchildren at war.) ” Twenty-three percent of the armedorganizations in the world (84 out of 366 total) use children age 15 and underin combat roles”. Themain purpose of this research paper is to use the key elements of the systemsthinking perspective founded by Foster J. (1956) in order to highlight the maincauses of children being trained and recruited in terrorist groups. One such reasonor factor of child terrorism is poverty. It is noted that the countries withhigher level of economic inequality suffer higher levels of terrorism (Poverty,minority economic discrimination, and domestic terrorism Author(s): James APiazza Source: Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 48, No.

3, Special Issue: NewFrontiers of Terrorism Research (may 2011), pp. 339-353). Low-income householdswith families that bear more children than they can take care of are mostlikely to be negligent of their children. These children usually make a livingthrough begging and getting involved in various other street crimes and thus itis easier for militants and terrorists to coax them (Mia Bloom (2016), https://thewire.in/64133/cubs-of-the-caliphate-how-isis-coerces-children-into-its-fold/).

Children from developing countries are the most common targets and are plantedinto developed international countries (Terrorism,Signaling, and Suicide Attack by BRUCE HOFFMAN &GORDON H. MCCORMICK(2010)Pages 243-281). In an online article on how ISIS curbs children intoits folds by Mia Bloom (2016, https://thewire.in/64133/cubs-of-the-caliphate-how-isis-coerces-children-into-its-fold/)it was stated that when a rural area in Pakistan was occupied by the Taliban,the terrorists would go door-to-door demanding financial help, the householdswhich were not able to pay had to send off their eldest son to be a part of theTaliban group.  Thus, children belongingto under-developed households are seen to be the easiest targets by militantgroups. The 9/11 Commission report reached a similar conclusion: “Terrorism isnot caused by poverty.

Yet when people lose hope, when societies break down,when countries are fragmented, the breeding ground for terrorism is created.” (Quotedin Yonatan Levy, “9/11 Report: The Middle East Dimension,” available athttp://www.washingtoninstitute.org/distribution/Pol890.doc accessed 13September 2006)Another facet of the child terrorist especially inthe Middle-East and Asia is religion. Religion is like the Achilles heel of ahuman being. In most cases it is considered to be the weakest point of aperson. Muslim as well as Christian boys in Indonesia considered it to be theirduty to fight with other communities within that area.

“The boys are soproud of their contribution. It’s a common thing for them to say they’vekilled. Since the government can’t seem to do anything, they all say they havean obligation to protect their families and their religion.” (Quoted in JohnMcBeth, “Children of War,” Far Eastern Economic Review, May 2, 2002). Accordingto the Global Terrorism Index of 2014, religious extremism is the main drivingforce behind terrorism. In the report issued on religious extremism (GeorgeArnett, the guardian 2014), it was stated that in 2013, more than 18000 deathswere recorded and 66% of these deaths were caused by the four main religiousorganisations: ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), Boko Haram in Nigeria,the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida. The author predicts that these groupshad a religious agenda. The one religious factor that these so-called Islamicstates take advantage of is Jihad.

Children as young as 7-8 years arebrainwashed by religious scholars especially in the rural areas of thedeveloping countries of Asia and the Middle-East. These scholars havemisinterpreted the teachings of the Holy Quran for their own benefit and teachthe young minds that killing by the use of sword is their religious duty afterwhich they’ll attain the highest rank in heaven (Qamar A, N. (2010) Religiousterrorism- causes and remedies- The review of religions). The world has seen arise in religious extremism after 2000 more specifically after the attackon  the World Trade Centre in New York,before that the IRA and Chechen tribes more commonly known as the nationalistseparatist terrorist organisations were behind most of the terrorist attacks(George Arnett, the gaurdian). System thinking theory helps one to analyze therelationship between the multiple facets of one single phenomenon which in turnfacilitates researchers, theorists and decision makers while making importantdiscoveries (Grimsley, S.

Systems Thinking in Management: Definition, Theory& Model. https://study.com/academy/lesson/systems-thinking-in-management-definition-theory-model.

html).Therefore, all the multiple elements of child terrorism are  interconnected and help us in determining theunderlying causes of how and why children are now the perpetrators as well asthe victim. Other than poverty and religion, another noteworthycausal attribute of terrorism is lack of proper education. According to Roces,R, A, (2001), (lack of education is real terrorism- Philstar Global) terrorismis not due to the lack of poverty but due to ignorance of the basicfundamentals of humanity or in simpler words lack of education of thehumanitarian rights. The writer gives the example of the world renowned terrorattack on 11th September 2001, the mastermind behind the attack was Osama binLadin who was one of the richest men in the world. Bin Ladin used the ignorantAfghans especially uneducated and poor young minds to his advantage andbrainwashed them by using religion as an excuse, it was a crime for men to shavein Afghanistan and women were not allowed to even get basic education. With time, lack of education has created many childterrorists in not only Asia but also other developing countries of the worldmost prominently the Middle-East. By 2016, more than 2.

8 million Syrianchildren and 80% of the school-aged children in Lebanon were out of school.(Hroub, A, H. (2016) By failing toeducate child refugees, we are creating the extremists of the future- http://www.independent.

co.uk/voices/child-refugees-syria-lebanon-terrorism-education-creating-the-extremists-of-the-future-a7148901.html).Curtis, P.

in the Guardian (2003) writes that terrorism is taught infaith-based schools all over the world regardless of race, religion andculture. He has also spoken against the rise of the faith-based schools in theUK over the last decade (Lack of education ‘agreater threat than terrorism’: Sen- https://www.theguardian.com/education/2003/oct/28/schools.uk3).

Hroub (2016) writes “A child is out of school is not just a tragedy forthat child. It makes us all weaker and more vulnerable.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/child-refugees-syria-lebanon-terrorism-education-creating-the-extremists-of-the-future-a7148901.html)Poverty,religion and lack of education are considered the major causes of childterrorism. However, the whole of the puzzle is not fully completed until eachand every tiny piece is fitted inside.

Likewise, these three major causes donot entirely give rise to child terrorism there are few other minor componentsof this diverse phenomenon. Children who lose their parents at a young age feelthe need to take revenge from their perpetrators. Since Syria has fallen apart,the schools and mosques have been seized and those children without a guardianare considered to be the most easier targets (Bloom, M.

the wire- https://thewire.in/64133/cubs-of-the-caliphate-how-isis-coerces-children-into-its-fold/).These tormented and confused minds are filled with hatred and finally sent ontoavenge the death of their loved ones. In 2007, the foreign affairs magazinecovered the picture of a 10-year old Palestinian child with his face coveredwith a black cloth holding a rifle at a training camp in Lebanon. Being thelone survivor from a Palestinian household he was training to get revenge fromthe ‘killers’ of his family members.  Aleader is known to have a set of distinguishing features such as charisma,resilience, confidence etc. These terrorist leaders are no different. Peopleusually living in rural areas of Pakistan and other developing countries lookupon their community leaders with utmost respect and adoration.

Questioning aleader about what they say is considered to be a crime. Parents living in Swatregion of Pakistan would send their kids off to Taliban training camps if theirlocal religious leader asked them to (Bloom, M & Horgan, J. The rise of thechild terrorist- https://www.foreignaffairs.

com/articles/middle-east/2015-02-09/rise-child-terrorist).Morethan 500 children were abducted by the ISIS from Iraq and its neighboring areasand were taken to terrorist camps in Iraq and Syria where they were trained tobecome suicide bombers executioners and armed fighters. Most of these childrenare brainwashed while some of them are forced to attend these training camps(Drury, F. (2015) Mail online http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3107010/500-children-kidnapped-ISIS-brainwashedsuicide-bombers-child-soldiers-Iraqi-official-reveals.html).

More recently,Afghan police force rescued 25 children who were kidnapped from Afghanistan andwere being sent to Quetta, Pakistan for training by the Afghan Taliban. Theyoungest child was reported to be 4 year old. The abductors normally use drugsto kidnap and transfer their victims to their camps and headquarters.”Theywere given substances by the traffickers that has made them dizzy andconfused.

They have lost their senses.” (Furogh, S. & Bezhan. F (2017) https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-police-children-kidnapped-by-taliban-to-be-suicide-bombers/28606744.

html).In2013, a video was released which featured a young member of the Al-Shahaabgroup, the boy exclaimed “If you guys only knew how much fun we have overhere, This is the real Disneyland.” (Horgan & Bloom- The rise of thechild terrorist (2015) https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-02-09/rise-child-terrorist).Thisvoluntary participation is another black truth of terrorism. Children especiallyyoung boys, feel powerful and authoritative by holding a gun. Their sense ofright and wrong is heavily clouded by their anticipation and thirst for power.

They want to take over the world without caring about the one’s who’ll die inthe process (Bhatia, R. (2010) Youth and Terrorism- http://theviewspaper.net/youth-and-terrorism/).Withadvancements in technology and the unnecessary highlighting of the terrorist activities by the media there is a rise involuntary participation especially by the young minds with little or no senseof direction. As the saying by (Bohn, H., G.

(1855) in the hand book ofproverb)  goes “An empty mind is thedevil’s workshop” It is easier for the terrorist to spew ideas ofgreatness, martyrdom and revenge in the young mind and these ideas are morereadily accepted if the said mind is of an uneducated, poverty stricken child(Masaeli, M. & Sneller, R. (2017) TheRoot Causes of Terrorism: A Religious Studies Perspective).In conclusion, there are multitudes of other lowimpacting or high impacting causes of terrorism that influence or causechildren to become terrorists and violate the rights of humanity.Systematically putting all the causes of this multifaceted approach will give awider and a clearer picture of the mindsets of these young perpetrators. Lastlyit should be noted that they were children when they were killed in Peshawar,Pakistan in December 2014 and they were children who blew up themselves in thetowns of Maiduguri and Potiskum, Nigeria in January 2015. There are simplychildren on both ends of the gun.


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