ISIS youth recruitment camps flourish in Al-Raqqa

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) has recently stepped up its youth recruitment program, a sort of boot camp for young boys, in which they’re taught combat skills. The Al-Qaeda splinter group persuades parents to send their kids in exchange for sums of money it offers, taking advantage of their need, in the midst of dire living conditions and widespread poverty in the areas under its control.

However, not all youth recruitment carried out by ISIS  is voluntary. In some cases, young boys were arbitrarily taken to boot camps without parental consent, which had some describe the process as “kidnappings”. In Al-Raqqa’s Qouweider region, 13-year-old Hamadi Al-Ibrahim went missing on May 14, his family frantically searched for him all over the province, leaving no stone unturned, until they found him in ISIS’s Al-Sherkrak Camp.

When the boy’s parents went to the camp to inquire about the whereabouts of their son, the ISIS emir bluntly denied knowing anything about him and refused to acknowledge his presence among the fighters. However, after the parents paid the Emir a sizable amount of money as a bribe, he came around admitting that Hamadi is indeed receiving training at the camp after he had been given the title “Abu Mouhammad Al-Raqqawi”.

After  Hamadi returned to his home, he was questioned by his family regarding the way through which he had come to join ISIS, Hamadi candidly said that his friends had convinced him to accompany them to ISIS camps in exchange for certain amounts of money that are usually granted to minors in order to lure them to join the camps. According to our sources, the kids had been recruited through the “tent advocacy” ceremonies, usually held by the organization in Al-Raqqa province, through which ISIS members tend to preach their ideology and attempt to attract youngsters and thus boost the organization with new blood.

The recruitment camps have been established by ISIS, as an attempt to brainwash the minors and promote extremism among the young generations in order to create an army of loyal followers that would subsequently be appointed as checkpoint guards, whose main objective is to prevent potential attacks conducted by anti-ISIS battalions.

There are several well-known ISIS youth training camps across Al-Raqqa province:

1-Al-Zarqawi Camp

2-Osama Bin Laden Camp

3-Al-Sharea’I Camp for kids under the age of 16

4-Al-Sherkrak Camp

5-Al-Talaea Camp

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media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".