Terrorism, the recruitment of underage children in armed

Terrorism,
being a widely present phenomenon is not easily summarized into concepts and
analysis. According to Jackson et al. (2011, p. 2) “terrorism is not
strictly an abstract academic field of study, but now infuses and impacts upon
virtually every aspect of modern life”. (book: Terrorism: A critical
introduction 2011 edition by Richard Jackson,? Lee Jarvis,? Jeroen
Gunning.) Thus, it is nowadays difficult to comprehend and explain terrorism as
a single variable. To explain this widespread measure in its entirety
researchers use the systems thinking approach. 
Researcher Kim H., D. (1999), in his paper on the introduction to
systems thinking explained how systems worked together in interdependent parts
to form a whole concept which in turn helps us perceive and better understand
the situation or environment around us. Similarly researchers and authors have
many times explained the concept and causes of terrorism through  different factors in the environment. The
present essay aims to incorporate the use of systems thinking approach in order
to explain  the most important causes of
child terrorism. The use of child terrorists and/or child soldiers is a complex
system which comprises of many interconnected variables/elements (Mendelson, E,
M. (2008) A SYSTEMS UNDERSTANDING OF TERRORISM WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY).  

In
the previous years, where terrorism has risen so have the number of child
terrorists as well as child soldiers. The only difference between the two being
the 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 other
children. Even though since 1979 the United Nations and other governmental and
nongovernmental organizations have raised issues and concerns about the
recruitment of underage children in armed conflicts (Rachel Brett, (2002)
Juvenile justice, counter terrorism and children- children and security 3rd
edition) yet a huge number of underage children are found among terror groups
and armed forces (The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion by Bernd Beber and
Christopher Blattman (International Organization 67, Winter 2013,)). According
to data noted from the article on child soldiers by Singer W, P. (2005)( from
children at war.) ” Twenty-three percent of the armed
organizations in the world (84 out of 366 total) use children age 15 and under
in combat roles”.

The
main purpose of this research paper is to use the key elements of the systems
thinking perspective founded by Foster J. (1956) in order to highlight the main
causes of children being trained and recruited in terrorist groups. One such reason
or factor of child terrorism is poverty. It is noted that the countries with
higher level of economic inequality suffer higher levels of terrorism (Poverty,
minority economic discrimination, and domestic terrorism Author(s): James A
Piazza Source: Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 48, No. 3, Special Issue: New
Frontiers of Terrorism Research (may 2011), pp. 339-353). Low-income households
with families that bear more children than they can take care of are most
likely to be negligent of their children. These children usually make a living
through begging and getting involved in various other street crimes and thus it
is 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 planted
into 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 into
its 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 households
which were not able to pay had to send off their eldest son to be a part of the
Taliban group.  Thus, children belonging
to under-developed households are seen to be the easiest targets by militant
groups. The 9/11 Commission report reached a similar conclusion: “Terrorism is
not caused by poverty. Yet when people lose hope, when societies break down,
when countries are fragmented, the breeding ground for terrorism is created.” (Quoted
in Yonatan Levy, “9/11 Report: The Middle East Dimension,” available at
http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/distribution/Pol890.doc accessed 13
September 2006)

Another facet of the child terrorist especially in
the Middle-East and Asia is religion. Religion is like the Achilles heel of a
human being. In most cases it is considered to be the weakest point of a
person. Muslim as well as Christian boys in Indonesia considered it to be their
duty to fight with other communities within that area. “The boys are so
proud of their contribution. It’s a common thing for them to say they’ve
killed. Since the government can’t seem to do anything, they all say they have
an obligation to protect their families and their religion.” (Quoted in John
McBeth, “Children of War,” Far Eastern Economic Review, May 2, 2002). According
to the Global Terrorism Index of 2014, religious extremism is the main driving
force behind terrorism. In the report issued on religious extremism (George
Arnett, the guardian 2014), it was stated that in 2013, more than 18000 deaths
were recorded and 66% of these deaths were caused by the four main religious
organisations: ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), Boko Haram in Nigeria,
the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida. The author predicts that these groups
had a religious agenda.

The one religious factor that these so-called Islamic
states take advantage of is Jihad. Children as young as 7-8 years are
brainwashed by religious scholars especially in the rural areas of the
developing countries of Asia and the Middle-East. These scholars have
misinterpreted the teachings of the Holy Quran for their own benefit and teach
the young minds that killing by the use of sword is their religious duty after
which they’ll attain the highest rank in heaven (Qamar A, N. (2010) Religious
terrorism- causes and remedies- The review of religions). The world has seen a
rise in religious extremism after 2000 more specifically after the attack
on  the World Trade Centre in New York,
before that the IRA and Chechen tribes more commonly known as the nationalist
separatist terrorist organisations were behind most of the terrorist attacks
(George Arnett, the gaurdian).

System thinking theory helps one to analyze the
relationship between the multiple facets of one single phenomenon which in turn
facilitates researchers, theorists and decision makers while making important
discoveries (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 the
underlying causes of how and why children are now the perpetrators as well as
the victim.

Other than poverty and religion, another noteworthy
causal attribute of terrorism is lack of proper education. According to Roces,
R, A, (2001), (lack of education is real terrorism- Philstar Global) terrorism
is not due to the lack of poverty but due to ignorance of the basic
fundamentals of humanity or in simpler words lack of education of the
humanitarian rights. The writer gives the example of the world renowned terror
attack on 11th September 2001, the mastermind behind the attack was Osama bin
Ladin who was one of the richest men in the world. Bin Ladin used the ignorant
Afghans especially uneducated and poor young minds to his advantage and
brainwashed them by using religion as an excuse, it was a crime for men to shave
in Afghanistan and women were not allowed to even get basic education.

With time, lack of education has created many child
terrorists in not only Asia but also other developing countries of the world
most prominently the Middle-East. By 2016, more than 2.8 million Syrian
children and 80% of the school-aged children in Lebanon were out of school.
(Hroub, A, H. (2016) By failing to
educate 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 in
faith-based schools all over the world regardless of race, religion and
culture. He has also spoken against the rise of the faith-based schools in the
UK over the last decade (Lack of education ‘a
greater 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 for
that 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 child
terrorism. However, the whole of the puzzle is not fully completed until each
and every tiny piece is fitted inside. Likewise, these three major causes do
not entirely give rise to child terrorism there are few other minor components
of this diverse phenomenon. Children who lose their parents at a young age feel
the need to take revenge from their perpetrators. Since Syria has fallen apart,
the schools and mosques have been seized and those children without a guardian
are 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 onto
avenge the death of their loved ones. In 2007, the foreign affairs magazine
covered the picture of a 10-year old Palestinian child with his face covered
with a black cloth holding a rifle at a training camp in Lebanon. Being the
lone survivor from a Palestinian household he was training to get revenge from
the ‘killers’ of his family members. 

A
leader is known to have a set of distinguishing features such as charisma,
resilience, confidence etc. These terrorist leaders are no different. People
usually living in rural areas of Pakistan and other developing countries look
upon their community leaders with utmost respect and adoration. Questioning a
leader about what they say is considered to be a crime. Parents living in Swat
region of Pakistan would send their kids off to Taliban training camps if their
local religious leader asked them to (Bloom, M & Horgan, J. The rise of the
child terrorist- https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-02-09/rise-child-terrorist).

More
than 500 children were abducted by the ISIS from Iraq and its neighboring areas
and were taken to terrorist camps in Iraq and Syria where they were trained to
become suicide bombers executioners and armed fighters. Most of these children
are 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-brainwashed
suicide-bombers-child-soldiers-Iraqi-official-reveals.html). More recently,
Afghan police force rescued 25 children who were kidnapped from Afghanistan and
were being sent to Quetta, Pakistan for training by the Afghan Taliban. The
youngest child was reported to be 4 year old. The abductors normally use drugs
to kidnap and transfer their victims to their camps and headquarters.”They
were given substances by the traffickers that has made them dizzy and
confused. 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).

In
2013, a video was released which featured a young member of the Al-Shahaab
group, the boy exclaimed “If you guys only knew how much fun we have over
here, This is the real Disneyland.” (Horgan & Bloom- The rise of the
child terrorist (2015) https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-02-09/rise-child-terrorist).This
voluntary participation is another black truth of terrorism. Children especially
young boys, feel powerful and authoritative by holding a gun. Their sense of
right 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 in
the process (Bhatia, R. (2010) Youth and Terrorism- http://theviewspaper.net/youth-and-terrorism/).

With
advancements in technology and the unnecessary 
highlighting of the terrorist activities by the media there is a rise in
voluntary participation especially by the young minds with little or no sense
of direction. As the saying by (Bohn, H., G. (1855) in the hand book of
proverb)  goes “An empty mind is the
devil’s workshop” It is easier for the terrorist to spew ideas of
greatness, martyrdom and revenge in the young mind and these ideas are more
readily accepted if the said mind is of an uneducated, poverty stricken child
(Masaeli, M. & Sneller, R. (2017) The
Root Causes of Terrorism: A Religious Studies Perspective).

In conclusion, there are multitudes of other low
impacting or high impacting causes of terrorism that influence or cause
children to become terrorists and violate the rights of humanity.
Systematically putting all the causes of this multifaceted approach will give a
wider and a clearer picture of the mindsets of these young perpetrators. Lastly
it 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 the
towns of Maiduguri and Potiskum, Nigeria in January 2015. There are simply
children on both ends of the gun.