Terrorist organizations are known for infamous training camps and schools, especially with ISIS and their child recruits, but the group is now taking it to a whole new level.
There are many variations of these "schools" and "training camps" run by terrorist groups. Pakistani journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy explained in her Ted Talk entitled “Inside a School for Suicide Bombers,” how the Taliban operated their training schools.
“They target poor families and convince the parents to send their children. In return, they provide free food and shelter and sometimes pay the families a monthly stipend . . . Young boys are taught justifications for suicide attacks and the execution of spies.”
However, the Islamic State has become much more innovative and expansive than the Taliban, in which they take over schools and teach more subjects rather than simply violence and terrorism.
In cities such as Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS has taken on the role of the government in controlling many sectors, one of them being education. The militant group has radicalized the curriculum, altering it to align with Islamic State fundamentals. The curriculum goes from teaching normal subjects such as math, and even English, to teaching physical education (tactical fighting) and jihad for elementary school ages. In the district of Mayadin in Syria, for example, families face fines or arrests if they refuse to send their children to the IS-run schools. They even regulate what grade girls are allowed to study up to.
A report published by the Iraqi Institution for Development details how ISIS has reformed education to benefit their fight. Simple subjects such as math now include references to violence.
For example, arithmetic exercises ask students to calculate the number of explosives a factory can produce in a particular ISIS-controlled state or the number of Shi’ite Muslims or ‘unbelievers’ that can be killed by a car suicide-bomber. There are images of Kalashnikovs, and the plus sign (+) has been abolished as it’s claimed it refers to the Christian cross.
The plus sign has been replaced with the letter "z." Further, history books have even been replaced with the biographies of IS leaders.
The group has also developed English textbooks to teach basics and grammar, which are even available for download on the dark web. These textbooks include, for example, questions where students must create sentences based on certain questions such as, "where?" "how far? and "how many?" There are then examples of possible responses, that include sentences such as, "A lot of fighters came from Russia," and "He has got a lot of dynamite."
All of this has been happening for a couple of years now, but Foreign Policy has revealed a new mode of education employed by ISIS: apps. ISIS is known for being very tech-savvy, one of the reasons it is inherently difficult to counter them.
The app is apparently used to teach young children subjects such as spelling and the alphabet. It teaches the alphabet by assigning letters to violent objects. FP writer Robbie Gramer gave some examples.
Accompanying a picture of a rifle and then a sword, the app says, “B is for Bunduqiyya (gun), and “S is for sayf (sword).”
Based on an interview with senior researcher Peter Weinberger from University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, FP explained what this extensive education can do for the group.
Weinberger told FP once the Islamic State teaches young followers English, they can deploy not just to the frontlines but to meetings with criminal networks, to cities to recruit more fighters, and to the Internet to bolster the group’s online presence in the English-speaking world.
But some are used for more gruesome tasks. The United Nations recorded 362 cases of child soldier recruitment in Syria in 2016 alone, of which 274 were attributed to the Islamic State. The terrorist group was reported to use children to carry out raids, engage in fights, and even execute enemies. But the path taken from child to executioner, experts say, all started in the classroom.