Turkish prosecutors are accusing Islamic State terrorists of establishing a training school within an office building in Ankara, where supporters would take their children for indoctrination instead of legal, government-run secular schools.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that the prosecutor’s indictment cites among the evidence “report cards” jihadis gave children being indoctrinated in the school, as well as social items like wedding invitations for those who were members of the local terror cell and Islamic State flags. The indictment charges 21 people with organizing the indoctrination facility – which took up three floors of an office complex in the capital – with “being a member of an armed terror organization.” Among those being subjected to ISIS indoctrination in this facility were at least 22 children between ten and eighteen years of age.
“They are trying to provide school education in places such as mosques, study or training centers built by themselves. They do not accept the laws or schools of the Republic of Turkey and do not send their children to public schools,” according to the indictment.
This wave of arrests is the latest in Turkish law enforcement activity targeting ISIS cells attempting to establish parallel institutions to brainwash children. Last month, prosecutors filed an indictment against another group of suspects for organizing a similar terrorist “school” in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The Istanbul facility featured readings and documents encouraging children to support the Islamic State and teaching them that secular governments run by “infidels” were immoral. The documents also taught children not to celebrate non-Islamic holidays.
Reports of Islamic State centers for indoctrination in Syria have circulated for years, and police have shut down multiple facilities believed to serve as recruitment centers. In 2015, police shut down a tea house near the Syrian border named “Islam,” where young men curious about a life of jihad went to discuss crossing into Syria and committing acts of terrorism with group recruiters. That same year, police shut down a terrorist training camp for children in a basement in Istanbul, reported filled with dozens of children from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – Turkic communities – taught to engage in jihad and pledge allegiance to Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
At the time, multiple reports had surfaced claiming the Turkish government, run by Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not act with sufficient intensity to keep the Islamic State from expanding in Syria and Iraq by smuggling new jihadis through the Turkish border. Some reports accused Erdogan of supporting the Islamic State as a counterweight to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and even claimed that his daughter was running a hospital to cure wounded jihadis near the Syrian border.
Such reports started to disappear as Erdogan began to cooperate more closely with American and Russian allies against ISIS, and ISIS itself began calling for attacks on Turkey, claiming Erdogan was insufficiently Muslim. In one propaganda piece, Islamic State terrorists referred to Erdogan as a “beggar before the doors of Crusader Europe” and “Brotherhood apostate” – a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group the Islamic State also considers false Muslims.
Late last year, the Islamic State released a video in which jihadists torture, humiliate, and ultimately execute Turkish soldiers, who the terrorists force to walk on hands and knees like dogs. Dogs are considered unclean, haram animals in Islam.
A week after the publication of that video, an Islamic State terrorist opened fire on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve, killing dozens of mostly young, Middle Eastern tourists. Turkish law enforcement have since ramped up operations against the terrorist organization, arresting over 800 suspects in one week in February alone.
This week, Turkish police announced the arrest of three ISIS terrorists who had completed suicide bombing training on the Syrian border as part of a larger raid on an Islamic State hideout.