Preventing the Next Generation: Mapping the Pathways of Children's Mobilization into Violent Extremist Organizations
Principal Investigator: Mia Bloom, Georgia State University
Co-Investigator: B. Heidi Ellis
Years of Award: 2016-2019
Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research
The exploitation of children by militant organizations, e.g., terrorist groups or Central American gangs, is not a new phenomenon. However, terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) increasingly used children for battlefield activities and depicted them in their media. By exploiting children, terrorist and militant groups benefit from greater media attention while simultaneously grooming the new generation of loyal members. To better understand this phenomenon, the project “Preventing the Next Generation: Mapping the Pathways of Children’s Mobilization into Violent Extremist Organizations” examined how children were recruited, deployed and ascertained whether they were radicalized in a number of different violent extremist organizations (VEOs) in Iraq and Syria, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG Kurdish militia).
Detailed case studies are being conducted on how children have been exploited by terrorist groups in Nigeria (Book Haram), Somalia (al Shabaab), Northern Ireland (IRA) and Colombia (FARC). Additionally, the research team at Boston Children’s Hospital has contrasted common features in the social ecology of youth involvement in terrorist groups with Central American gangs (e.g. in Nicaragua). The project has generated three important policy implications. First, the project identified the manner in which terrorist organizations exploited children -- tracking the increasing use of children by groups like ISIS and contrasting these with the manner in which criminal gangs exploited children. Second, the project seeks to inform operational decisions in the field when facing militarized children. Third, the project proposes a mechanism to determine which children can (and should) be reintegrated (child foreign fighter returnees) after conflict.
- 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.
- Bloom, Mia. 2018. Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict. Armed Conflict Survey 4(1): 36–50.
- Bloom, Mia. 2017. Constructing Cultures of Martyrdom Across Religions, Time and Space. In The Constructions of Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Research and Policy, edited by Michael Stohl, Richard Burchill, and Scott Howard Englund. Berkeley: University of California Press. 181-192
- Horgan, John, Max Taylor, Mia Bloom, and Charlie Winter. 2017. From Cubs to Lions: A Six Stage Model of Child Socialization into the Islamic State. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. 40(7): 645-654
- Bloom, Mia. 2015. Cubs of the Caliphate: Children of ISIS. Foreign Affairs. July 21.
- Bloom, Mia, and John Horgan. 2015. Rise of the Child Terrorist: The Young Faces at the Frontlines. Foreign Affairs. February 9.