Islamic State urges children to leave home, fight in Syria

The Islamic State, or ISIS, uses persuasive tacts to lure children from their homes and invites them to fight on behalf of its cause in Syria. Thousands of children are leaving their families behind to fight for this violent organization. 

Emily Feldman --- Mashable

ANKARA, Turkey—Yasar's son was only 14 when he left his home in Ankara, Turkey, to join the deadliest group in the Middle East.

Telling his father he was going with his older brother to sell vegetables in a market outside the city, he instead hitched a ride with four friends to Syria, where he was inducted into the radical militant group, the Islamic State.

When Yasar got the call from his son, he was horrified but not surprised. For a while, people in the neighborhood had been talking about children and young men traveling more than 500 miles to Syria to join the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIL or ISIS.) And his son had recently begun praying five times a day.

A socialist with little interest in religion, Yasar at first had thought that his son's display of piety was better than a life devoted to drugs which are all too common in their neighborhood.

But he hadn't realized how far things had gone.

Fearful for his son's life, Yasar begged him to come home. But the boy refused. He said he was enjoying his time in Raqqa, a radical stronghold, studying Islam and Arabic, swimming and playing volleyball.

Yasar didn't hear from his son again until late last month when the teenager called from a hospital in southeastern Turkey, asking his father to come and take him home.

The boy had been injured in a bomb blast that had sent shrapnel into his genitals. Other members of the Islamic State had rushed him to the Syrian-Turkish border for treatment. He was signed into a hospital under the pseudonym Mehmed al-Mehmed, causing confusion when his father arrived.

Police called to the hospital brought along an Arabic translator and puzzled over Yasar's interest in the case. “'This is an ISIL fighter. He's Arab,'" Yasar recalls police saying. “I said, 'no, this is my son. The boy is Turkish.'”

His son was eventually able to leave the hospital and return home with his father on condition that he receive psychological counseling, Yasar said. He added that authorities have not followed up with his family and that his son, who has vowed not to return to Syria, will recover at home and return to school as soon as he can.

A photograph of Yasar's 14 year old son who went to Syria to join ISIS and then later returned to Ankara.

Jodi Hilton, Mashable

The Islamic State's aggressive recruitment effort — both online and via word-of-mouth — has lured thousands of foreign fighters to join the radical group, with recruits traveling from Europe, the Middle East and even parts of the U.S. to fight in Syria and, more recently, in Iraq.

Aiming to tip the balance against the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, Turkey initially opened its borders to jihadi fighters, including many from within the country.

But rather than end the war, it instead strengthened the militant group, allowing it to defeat more moderate elements within the Syrian resistance and to subsequently to carve a bloody path through Iraq, sending tens of thousands people fleeing and threatening the stability of the entire region.

When the radical group kidnapped dozens of Turkish citizens —including the consul general in Mosul — it served as a wake-up call to Turkey, which is now trying to stem the tide of militants flowing across its borders, though the damage may already be done.

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