Nearly 150 Kurdish boys who were kidnapped by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last month remain in custody and are reportedly being radicalized by the militants.
ISIS kidnapped more than 600 Kurdish students on May 29 as they were traveling back to the city of Kobani after taking final exams in Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ISIS released the girls and younger students but have kept the older boys, whom the group is reportedly giving an Islamic “education.”
The Syrian Observatory also noted that ISIS kidnapped another 193 Kurdish civilians in the Syrian city of Al-Bab in late May.
The radical group released two students and gave them a phone number for parents to communicate with their children. A Kurdish journalist told the McClatchy news service that the two informed their families that ISIS members have been teaching the captive students how to pray and follow Sharia law. The militants are apparently encouraging the kids to follow the group’s extremist ideology and even join its ranks.
Parents are fearful that ISIS is indoctrinating the boys and that the group will use them to carry out suicide attacks.
Members of the Kurdish self-defense forces have speculated that ISIS might be keeping the students for a future prisoner swap. ISIS and Kurdish forces have been fighting each other along the Syrian-Iraqi Kurdish border, and both sides have taken prisoners.
ISIS is one of the most hard-line and extreme groups involved in the unfolding crisis in Syria and Iraq. After gaining prominence in Syria’s civil war over the past six months, ISIS has been steadily gaining control over areas. Earlier this month, its militants launched an assault into Iraq and have since taken control of much of the country’s northwest, effectively erasing the border between the two countries.
Kidnappings and indiscriminate killings have become a feature of the group’s takeover. Two weeks ago, ISIS militants took 49 Turkish diplomats and soldiers hostage from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and also captured 31 Turkish truck drivers.
Today, Human Rights Watch released a report outlining how Syrian opposition forces, including ISIS, have been recruiting and using children to fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the civil war. The report describes how one boy between the ages of 10 and 12 was tasked with whipping prisoners in an ISIS detention facility.
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928