Syria Crisis

With Blond Dolls And Kitchen Knives, ISIS Teaching Children How To Behead

Boys in the eastern city of Raqqa are forced into military training, and say their ISIS instructors show them how to decapitate blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls with kitchen knives.

Homework
Homework
Omar Abdullah

This summer, in his hometown of Raqqa, 13-year-old Mohammad was forced to attend a children's training camp established by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). When his father opposed his son's conscription, ISIS fighters threatened to kill him. Mohammad left for camp, which his father describes as a form of "brainwashing the children."

After his return, his mother says she was surprised to find a blond, blue-eyed doll in his bag — along with a large knife given to her son by his ISIS supervisors. When she confronted Mohammad, he told her that the camp manager had distributed the dolls and asked that the children decapitate them using the knife, and that they were asked to cover the dolls' faces when they performed the decapitation.

It was his homework: practice beheading a toy with the likeness of a blond, white Westerner.

Mohammad's father says the other camp parents corroborated his son's story — their children had all been given dolls and knives, too. In Raqqa, ISIS's Syrian stronghold, residents say children are slowly being forced into lives under the Sunni militant group's notoriously brutal interpretation of Sharia law.

Orange jumpsuits for dolls

Those living in the eastern city say ISIS has instituted rules banning traditional children's games and forcibly conscripting children to ISIS. They say ISIS is recruiting children under 15 to special ISIS camps established to introduce minors to the foundations of their brand of Islam.

Some of the male children are then transferred to an adult military camp, where they are trained to use arms and fight. Sources familiar with activity inside the camp say in order to teach the children how to use knives, ISIS has distributed dolls with blond hair and blue eyes, like many Europeans and Americans, dressed in orange jumpsuit uniforms like those worn by prisoners in Guantanamo. The children are given large knives and told to decapitate the dolls.

Mohammed said that older kids were asked to show the rest of the group how to decapitate dolls. Anyone who failed to perform the task was punished.

Soon after Mohammad's return from ISIS camp, his father, spurred by the fear of seeing his son become an ISIS fighter, decided that the family must flee Raqqa. Gathering what they could, they left for the Turkish city of Urfa.

Mohammad's mother says many other families also fled Raqqa due to forced child conscriptions.

"Nowadays, it's the children in Raqqa who come out to see the executions and crucifixions carried out by ISIS," his father says.

Mohammad's mother says many other families also fled Raqqa due to forced child conscriptions. "The regime hasn’t spared its arms, using everything they have against us," she says. "Then ISIS tries to teach our children that they should consider us infidels and cut off our heads."

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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