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Weaponizing the Weak: The Role of Children in Terrorist Groups

By Mia Bloom

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Bloom, Mia. 2019. Weaponizing the Weak: The Role of Children in Terrorist Groups. In Research Handbook on Child Soldiers, edited by Mark Drumbl and Jastine Barrett. Rochester: Edward Elgar Publishing.

In recent years, non-state violent extremist organizations, also known as terrorist groups, have increasingly mobilized children. This provides such organizations with advantages, notably the element of surprise and increased media attention in what is seen as the breaching of a previously unbroken psychological barrier. This Chapter discusses children’s involvement in such groups. Although this Chapter focuses on ISIS, it offers readers an array of comparative insights and impressions from a multiplicity of groups. This Chapter unpacks the many stages of ISIS’ use of children: recruitment, socialization, desensitization, schooling, selection, training, specialization and stationing. Particular attention is given to social media and the cultivation of cultures of martyrdom. Many children are forced into terrorist movements: they become victimized and traumatized by their experiences in this process. In turn, however, they themselves exploit and harm others, thereby calling into question the binaries of victim and perpetrator.

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Associated Minerva Project: Children's Mobilization into Violent Extremism