As United Nations statistics estimate that over 5 million children's lives have been affected in Syria as a result of the Islamic State's ongoing jihad, U.N. officials are saying that ISIS has created new and more barbaric ways to utilize children in the conflict, including using them as human shields and forcing them to donate blood to injured jihadis.
United Nations International Children's Fund regional child protection adviser, Laurent Chapuis, said in a Thursday interview with Syria Deeply that Islamic State militants are recruiting children, including those of younger ages, to join the caliphate by providing them with various paying roles within the caliphate.
Although Chapuis says that some children are used in more civil and "domestic" roles like "cooking, cleaning, bringing water or providing medical aid to the wounded," some children are thrust to the front lines and used in military roles like combatants or human shields.
"There is conclusive evidence that children in Syria have and continue to be used by all parties to the conflict - as combatants. human shields, messengers, spies, guards [and] porters," Chapuis said.
According to a report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights office of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, some of ISIS' child soldiers "were forced to form the front line to shield ISIL fighters during fighting," and others "had been forced to donate blood for treating injured ISIL fighters."
The report also found that ISIS is using children for propaganda purposes and states that the testimonies tell of one instance where militants went to a hospital and forced two very sick kids with cancer to hold the ISIS flag while posing for a picture with the militants.
According to testimony from an escaped 15-year-old former ISIS fighter, the militant leaders are also forcing child fighters to take anti-anxiety pills in order to make them more likely to follow through on a suicide attack.
"That drug makes you lose your mind," the ex-militant teen named Mufleh told CBS News. "If they give you a suicide belt and tell you to blow yourself up, you'll do it."
Ivan Simonovic, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, told International Business Times that the reason why ISIS recruitment is so successful with children in the region is because the recruiters really press the importance of fighting and dying for their faith.
"What is striking for me is to meet mothers who [tell us], 'We don't know what to do,'" Simonovic said. "'Our sons are volunteering and we can't prevent it.'"
Chapuis further added that he thinks the new ways that children are starting to be recruited, trained and utilized in front line roles by extremist groups like ISIS is causing a change to the traditional "child soldier's paradigm."
"The geopolitical, regional and international dimensions of today's armed conflicts and the growing polarization around specific ideological, religious and sectarian agendas are all contributing to the emergence of a new 'child soldier's paradigm,' or new ways in which children are being mobilized, recruited and dragged into conflict and extreme violence," Chapuis asserted.