Isis’ latest idea for training children to armed fighting is called Huroof. It appears as a harmless Android app like many others, which provides didactic support to children learning the alphabet. The teaching method is classic: a letter is associated to every image. A bit like in Western elementary schools where the teacher shows the image of an animal or object and asks the pupils to repeat the first letter. Yet, there are no ducks, houses, and barn owls in this case. The 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are matched with the same number of weapons illustrations.
Thus, the letter M comes with the representation of a cannon (madfaa in Arabic) against a background in pastel tones, B is for rifle (bunduqiya), D is for tank (dabbaba), S is for sword (isayf), DH is for ammunition (dhakha’ir), the emphatic S is for missile (saroukh), and so on. An insult to the innocence of hundreds of children who are forced to become familiar with means of destruction in the early years of their life.
Huroof (“letters” in Arabic) was created by the jihadist production company Maktaba jihadist al-Himma. It cannot be found in traditional stores, but one can download it following a special link. It has been launched in a big way on all Daesh’s means of communication, from social networks to television. “The Huroof teaches the alphabet to the cubs” reads the project’s slogan, calling – according to the organization’s rhetoric – children “cubs”, whereas the adults are the “lions” of the self-styled Islamic State.
The Caliphate often used apps to spread its ideology. In February, it produced one that allows one to listen to al-Bayan Radio, which broadcasts the organization’s propagandistic messages. In November last year, it had launched another one, which is a kind of news aggregator on the jihad.
This is not the first time Isis transforms children into recipients or instruments of jihadist propaganda. The most sinister method so far are the numerous videos showing children forced to behead or shoot suspected traitors and infidels. Some time ago, the Italian daily La Repubblica published a Foreign Policy report signed by Kate Brennen, which told about minors in the front row during public executions, forced to donate blood to the wounded militiamen, paid to denounce traitors, and trained to become suicide bombers.
Eyewitnesses in Mosul and Tal Afar (in Iraq) have seen children dressed in Daesh uniforms going around with arms that were almost bigger than them, patroling the streets and arresting the locals. The UN human rights experts have received unconfirmed information on adolescents undergoing Isis military training in Mosul. Lack of schools and childcare facilities in the occupied territories makes the training camps for young jihadists become the only places where to spend time and socialize with peers. There, they learn that life is synonymous with war and martyrdom in the cause and the ultimate goal to aspire to.
A modern agoge (the hard military training ancient Spartans went through, starting at the age of 7) or, if you prefer, an Islamist-style “Hitler Youth”, which violates childhood, leading to unpredictable consequences on the psyche of these children, destined to become the new prophets of hate.