A United Nations human rights watchdog group has accused the Islamic State militia of committing systemic and horrific crimes against children in Iraq — including selling children as sex slaves and using others to carry out suicide bombings against enemy targets.
The U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said Iraqi boys under the age of 18 were being used as human shields to protect against U.S.-led airstrikes, while others were tapped to carry out suicide missions or act as informants for the group.
The CRC said it had received reports of young children being executed en masse by ISIS militants in Iraq. Those executions included boys being buried alive, beheaded or crucified.
“We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities,” committee member Renate Winter said at a news briefing last week. “The scope of the problem is huge.”
Winter said the committee heard reports of mentally challenged children being used as suicide bombers, “most probably without them even understanding.” Other children — some as young as 8-years-old — have been recruited as soldiers for the militia, Winter said, drawing upon videos distributed by the Islamic State on social media.
Other children — mainly young girls — have been kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery where they are sold and traded to soldiers and others, the report said. According to Winter, some children appeared in village marketplaces where ISIS militants put “price tags on them” and sold them as slaves.
The U.N. report called on the Iraqi government to ensure those responsible for crimes against children were brought to justice, while at the same time minimizing harm to children during government-led campaigns against the militants. According to the report, the Iraqi government was sometimes encouraged by citizens to carry out attacks against ISIS-run detention camps where girls and women were widely known to be held captive — something the report said showed dismissiveness toward some victims on the basis of gender.
“The persistence of gender based discriminatory attitudes within society … [has] resulted in people from besieged towns requesting the [Iraqi government] to bomb the prisons where girls and women are held, raped and sold into sexual slavery by the so-called [Islamic State],” the report said.
Other children suffered fatal injuries from “dehydration, starvation and heat in conflict areas,” something for which both sides were to blame, the report said. The U.N. has called for the Iraqi government to use caution in its campaigns against the Islamic State while ensuring children who are rescued receive adequate medical and psychological care for complete re-integration into society.
While not formally recognized as a militia or government, many identify the ISIS as a group in control of a large area of land in both Iraq and Syria. The land area under the Islamic State’s control is comparable to the state of Indiana, according to one expert.
After being casually dismissed by some world leaders, the ISIS received significant political and media attention last year when it began releasing videos threatening the lives of American, British and other hostages held captive by the group. A series of videos and photos distributed mainly on YouTube and Twitter showed Islamic State militants beheading western journalists after some governments refused to negotiate with the group for their release.
Last week, the group released a highly polished 20-minute-long video depicting the execution of a Jordanian pilot held hostage. The gruesome video, which purported to show the pilot being burned alive, was widely condemned by the international community, with some experts saying the execution was a “turning point” that could provoke a stronger response from western governments.
Read more: TheBlot’s Ongoing ISIS Coverage
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.