14-year old boy Khaled was recruited by ISIS. He thought he was joining a for a good cause, but to his surprise, the world he was walking into was not what he was expecting.
“I heard ISIS were kind — that they were with the revolution,” he said.
When anti-government protests broke out across Syria in the spring of 2011, the 11-year-old at the time wanted nothing more than to take to the streets.
His interest in ISIS was sparked as he watched with envy his older brothers and cousins joining the calls for freedom, but his family forbid him from going to demonstrations.
Khaled went through intense training where he learned to use multiple weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles, PKC machine guns, and pistols, and trained in endurance and sports. He also took Sharia courses on how to be a good Muslim.
Khaled says he was shocked at how extremist the religious classes were. He states the teachings resembled nothing of the Islam he knew.
The training was terrifying. He felt alone and afraid. When asked if he liked any of his teachers or superiors, he could think of one name only: Abu Musab al-Fransi.
“I saw a lot of people being tortured. Every day, they whipped people, even the children. Nobody was allowed to leave.”
Khaled was one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape after three months with ISIS by convincing them, with the help of his pleading mother, to let him go home for a brief break. During this time Khaled’s mother decided it was time for them to leave. Afraid for their lives, Khaled got a fake ID and traveled with a family that claimed him as their own.
“I was very afraid for my family and afraid that they would come to my home and force me to fight,” Khaled said.
Now that Khaled has fled from Syria, he is free from ISIS for now, but it has made it hard for Khaled continue his education or find a job.
Read full story Escaped Syrian Child Soldier: Don’t Join ISIS’
Photo credit Karl-Ludwig Poggemann