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Images of children on the battlefield or posing for a ‘last will and testament’ poster before a suicide operation suggest the extent to which ISIS has weaponized children. The use of children in terrorist propaganda has become a regular feature of their strategic messaging and has accelerated over time. While tasking children with a variety of support functions – scouts, drummers, or couriers is not new, the ways in which terrorist organizations have deployed children has evolved. The exploitation of children represents a relatively new development, both tactically and strategically. Attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria show that the median age of suicide bombers is decreasing. This presentation will provide evidence that terrorist groups have increased their use of children on the front lines despite assertions to the contrary and that important variation exists across groups based on location, country of origin, and the gender of the children with a particular emphasis on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Mia Bloom is Professor of Communication at Georgia State University. She conducts ethnographic field research in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia and speaks eight languages. She has authored books and articles on terrorism and violent extremism including Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (2005), Living Together After Ethnic Killing (2007) and Bombshell: Women and Terror (2011). Bloom is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has held appointments at Princeton, Cornell, Harvard and McGill Universities. Bloom’s newest book is Small Arms: Children and Terror (2019). Bloom has a PhD in political science from Columbia University, a Masters in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s degree from McGill in Russian, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.