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ISIS taught this 8-year-old how to detonate bombs in school


ISIS taught this 8-year-old how to detonate bombs in school

Mohammed* should be finishing up the fourth grade at his elementary school in Mosul. Instead, his school is in a tent some 25 miles away in a camp that houses displaced Iraqis. 

It’s better than the alternative. Just a few months ago, Mohammed was learning to detonate bombs in a classroom run by ISIS.

"There were bombs [in Mosul]. I think here is better. Here they teach us better," Mohammed told Circa.

A young school girl stands in a camp

The Save the Children charity estimated in 2016 over 1 million children living in ISIS-controlled territory had either been forced out of school, or forced to attend one of the terror group’s schools.

They tell us that the bomb explodes at the infidels... They were teaching us about bullets, bombs, weapons, planes and everything.

After removing many of the textbooks left behind in Mosul schools, ISIS instituted a new curriculum that promoted violence and hatred.

Mohammed recalled being forced to watch videos of suicide bombings and being quizzed on the proper techniques. 

Classroom material screen shot

Classroom material obtained by the German non-profit organization MICT show cartoons of children carrying guns and wearing clothing similar to those of ISIS fighters.  

"They used to take the kids and brainwash them," said Mohammed's father, Zamir.*

Zamir said his kids lived in constant fear of being targeted and punished by ISIS. Eventually, he pulled his four children out of school and fled the city.

Parents like Zamir must make the difficult decision of whether to stay and live under ISIS, or flee amid a barrage of snipers and landmines. UNICEF estimates some 200,000 children are still living in western Mosul.

Small group of ISIS children standing together

As the operation to take back Mosul from ISIS continues,  Iraq's camps for the internally displaced are nearly at capacity. As of March, the U.N. Refugee Agency said over over 195,000 Iraqis were registered in 21 different camps. 

Even in emergencies, children should have access to learning.
Laila Ali, media officer UNICEF-Iraq

Some displaced children from Mosul have missed as much as two-and-a-half years of school. To help them catch up, UNICEF has set up what it calls "temporary learning spaces" in tents throughout the camps. 

Returning children to a sense of normalcy in the classroom is as crucial as getting them basic necessities, says Laila Ali, media officer at UNICEF-Iraq. 


An estimated 1.2 million children across Iraq are still not in school, according to UNICEF. 

As the fighting rages in western Mosul, life is slowly beginning to return to normal for children in the liberated eastern half of the country. 

Along with Nineveh's Ministry of Education, UNICEF has helped re-open about 300 of the 400 schools in eastern Mosul. Some of the remaining classrooms were destroyed and still have to be rebuilt. 

Back in Khazer Camp, Zamir says going back to school has reintroduced a sense of normality for Mohammed, who says his favorite classes are mathematics, science and English.

When asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, Mohammed didn't hesitate. 

"I would like to be a doctor when I grow up so I can be able to save people."

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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To help these children, you can support these organizations: UNICEF and War Child 

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