Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 9: Weaponizing the weak: the role of children in terrorist groups

Mia Bloom


In recent years, non-state violent extremist organizations, also known as terrorist groups, have increasingly mobilized children. This provides such organizations with advantages, notably the element of surprise and increased media attention in what is seen as the breaching of a previously unbroken psychological barrier. This chapter discusses the involvement of children in such groups. Although the chapter focuses on ISIS, it offers readers an array of comparative insights and impressions from a multiplicity of groups. The text unpacks the many stages of ISIS’s use of children: recruitment, socialization, desensitization, schooling, selection, training, specialization and stationing. Particular attention is given to social media and the cultivation of cultures of martyrdom. Many children are forced into terrorist movements: they become victimized and traumatized by their experiences in this process. In turn, however, they themselves exploit and harm others, thereby calling into question the binaries of victim and perpetrator.

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