The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.

Military operations against ISIL intensified, especially in the governorates of Anbar, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Ninawa and Salah al-Din. The governorates of Baghdad and Diyala witnessed the main concentration of ISIL attacks. The impact on civilians and civilian infrastructure was devastating. My report on children and armed conflict in Iraq (S/2015/852) provides information on the period from January 2011 to June 2015. Limited access, especially with the intensification of conflict, and fear of retaliation impeded the monitoring and reporting of grave violations. The figures presented below are considered to be underreported.

The United Nations verified the recruitment and use of 37 children (36 boys and 1 girl). Of the cases, 19 were attributed to ISIL (including 18 boys from Halabjah, Sulaymaniyah governorate), 6 to the Kurdish Workers Party and other Kurdish armed groups and 12 to groups under the umbrella of the popular mobilization forces. Cases of child recruitment by the popular mobilization forces, which since April 2015 have been under the authority of the Prime Minister, included the coercion of eight boys to go to a military training camp and the recruitment of four boys who were killed while fighting ISIL in Bayji, Salah al-Din governorate. Another 174 incidents of child recruitment (169 by ISIL, 3 by the Kurdish Workers Party and 2 by the popular mobilization forces) were reported but could not be verified. Recruitment by ISIL was reported in the Anbar and Ninawa governorates, and child soldiers were portrayed in social media, including as executioners.

As at December, at least 314 children (256 boys and 58 girls), including 23 in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, remained in detention on charges under the Anti Terrorism Law (2005), including for alleged association with armed groups.

The killing and maiming of children remained the most reported violation. The United Nations recorded 268 incidents, resulting in 809 child casualties (338 killed and 471 injured). Of those incidents, 152 were verified, including the killing of 203 children (125 boys, 32 girls and 46 of unknown sex) and injury of 314 (182 boys, 96 girls and 36 of unknown sex). The majority (74 per cent) of child casualties were recorded in the second half of 2015, as military operations intensified in the Anbar, Ninawa and Salah al-Din governorates. A total of 63 per cent of casualties occurred during military operations and engagements involving ISIL, the Iraqi security forces, including the popular mobilization forces and the Peshmerga, tribal elements and the international coalition against ISIL. There were 76 recorded improvised explosive device attacks targeting public areas and Iraqi security personnel.

The United Nations received reports of sexual violence against girls, in particular against members of the Yezidi community and other minority groups, in ISIL-controlled areas. Specific cases of rape and sexual violence remained difficult to verify, however.

The United Nations documented 90 incidents of attacks on schools and education personnel (68 verified). The majority (62) resulted from continuing fighting in Anbar, and schools were targeted by improvised explosive devices in three incidents in Baghdad and Diyala. Teachers and students were directly targeted in 24 incidents. On 9 December, ISIL tortured and killed a female teacher in Ninawa for refusing to use the ISIL curriculum. Three schools in the governorates of Anbar and Salah al-Din were used for military purposes (two by ISIL and one by Iraqi security forces).

Ten attacks on health facilities were reported, of which seven were attributed to air strikes in Anbar. In addition, 26 attacks on medical personnel were recorded, with 18 staff killed, 10 abducted and 2 injured in the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Ninawa and Salah al-Din.

The United Nations received many reports of abduction of children, primarily by ISIL. In two incidents in June and September, more than 1,000 children were reportedly abducted by ISIL from Mosul district. In another nine incidents, 12 children (10 boys and 2 girls) were allegedly abducted by unknown perpetrators owing to family affiliations.

Incidents were documented of internally displaced persons being prevented from fleeing conflict to access safety and basic services. For example, in December, 1,600 internally displaced persons from Anbar were stopped from crossing the Bzeibiz bridge between Anbar and Baghdad and some were abducted, reportedly by elements of the popular mobilization forces.

In collaboration with the United Nations, the Kurdistan Regional Government established a task force on justice for children to follow up on children in conflict with the law, including those detained on charges relating to national security. I welcome the efforts by the Government to identify preventive measures to counter child recruitment by ISIL, but am concerned about continued reports of recruitment and use of children by the popular mobilization forces, which now fall under the Government’s responsibility. I urge the Government to put in place age verification and screening, and to criminalize and ensure accountability for child recruitment and use.

Parties in Iraq

  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)a,b,c,d,e

* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.
(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(c)Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children.
(d)Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.
(e) Parties that abduct children.


annual report summary

Click to read a summary of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict