‘Cubs of the Caliphate’: Survey finds ISIL provides young Syrian males with meaning, sense of purpose, income

Special to WorldTribune.com

Young Syrians who have been left without a school, a job or any meaning in their lives by the country’s devastating civil war are finding that Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) offers “a new meaning to their life in extremism,” a peace activist group’s survey found.

“Extremism opens a door to a new life where they are wanted,” one respondent in the International Alert survey released on May 4 said.

Many Syrian youth are finding a "new life in extremism." /YouTube
Many Syrian youth are finding a “new life in extremism.” /YouTube

The survey found males between the ages of 12 and 24 are most at risk of becoming “Cubs of the Caliphate.” Young Syrian men said in the survey that joining armed groups afforded them “a strong sense of purpose, honor and self-worth.”

Young Syrians are more driven by “the need to earn a basic living, regain a sense of purpose and dignity and the belief in a moral duty to protect, avenge and defend,” the survey found.

The survey draws on interviews with 311 Syrians, their families and members of their communities in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

ISIL, along with Al Qaida affiliate Nusra Front, have exploited the education gap left by the Syrian war, which has resulted in more than two million children being out of school by “filling this gap by providing their own forms of education,” the report said.

“These ‘schools’ are highly segregated, exploit sectarian divisions and support divisive narratives.”

International Alert said that, to prevent recruitment by jihadist groups, host countries for the millions of Syrian refugees need to enroll children in school programs that incorporate psychiatric support and trauma treatment.

The report also urged “providing alternative sources of livelihood, better access to positive social groups and institutions, and avenues for exercising non-violent activism.”

“If not for this job I would be on the front line with a Kalashnikov,” one Syrian man who works as a peace activist in Lebanon said in the survey.

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