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TED2010

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Inside a school for suicide bombers

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Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes on a terrifying question: How does the Taliban convince children to become suicide bombers? Propaganda footage from a training camp is intercut with her interviews of young camp graduates. A shocking vision.

- Filmmaker
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy makes documentary films. She's the founder of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, dedicated to preserving Pakistan's history. Full bio

Today, I want you to look at
00:16
children who become suicide bombers
00:18
through a completely different lens.
00:21
In 2009, there were 500
00:23
bomb blasts across Pakistan.
00:26
I spent the year working
00:28
with children
00:30
who were training to become suicide bombers
00:32
and with Taliban recruiters,
00:34
trying to understand how the Taliban
00:36
were converting these children
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into live ammunition
00:40
and why these children were actively
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signing up to their cause.
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I want you to watch a short video
00:46
from my latest documentary film, "Children of the Taliban."
00:48
(Singing)
00:54
The Taliban now run their own schools.
00:58
They target poor families
01:03
and convince the parents to send their children.
01:05
In return, they provide free food and shelter
01:08
and sometimes pay the families a monthly stipend.
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We've obtained a propaganda video
01:16
made by the Taliban.
01:18
Young boys are taught justifications
01:21
for suicide attacks
01:24
and the execution of spies.
01:26
I made contact with a child from Swat
01:30
who studied in a madrassa like this.
01:32
Hazrat Ali is from a
01:36
poor farming family in Swat.
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He joined the Taliban a year ago
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when he was 13.
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How do the Taliban in your area get people to join them?
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Hazrat Ali: They first call us to the mosque and preach to us.
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Then they take us to a madrassa
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and teach us things from the Koran.
01:58
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy: He tells me that children
02:01
are then given months of military training.
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HA: They teach us to use machine guns, Kalashnikov,
02:06
rocket launchers, grenades, bombs.
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They ask us to use them only against the infidels.
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Then they teach us to do a suicide attack.
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SOC: Would you like to carry out a suicide attack?
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HA: If God gives me strength.
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SOC: I, in my research,
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have seen that the Taliban have perfected
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the way in which they recruit
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and train children,
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and I think it's a five-step process.
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Step one is that the Taliban prey
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on families that are large, that are poor,
02:45
that live in rural areas.
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They separate the parents from the children
02:50
by promising to provide food, clothing,
02:52
shelter to these children.
02:54
Then they ship them off, hundreds of miles away
02:56
to hard-line schools
02:59
that run along the Taliban agenda.
03:01
Step two:
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They teach the children the Koran, which is Islam's holiest book,
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in Arabic, a language these children do not understand
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and cannot speak.
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They rely very heavily on teachers,
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who I have personally seen
03:16
distort the message to these children
03:18
as and when it suits their purpose to.
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These children are explicitly forbidden
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from reading newspapers, listening to radio,
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reading any books
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that the teachers do not prescribe them.
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If any child is found violating these rules,
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he is severely reprimanded.
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Effectively, the Taliban create
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a complete blackout
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of any other source of information for these children.
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Step three: The Taliban want these children
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to hate the world that they currently live in.
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So they beat these children --
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I have seen it;
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they feed them twice a day dried bread and water;
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they rarely allow them to play games;
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they tell them that, for eight hours at a time,
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all they have to do is read the Koran.
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The children are virtual prisoners;
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they cannot leave, they cannot go home.
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Their parents are so poor,
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they have no resources to get them back.
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Step four: The older members of the Taliban,
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the fighters,
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start talking to the younger boys
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about the glories of martyrdom.
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They talk to them about how when they die,
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they will be received up
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with lakes of honey and milk,
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how there will be 72 virgins
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waiting for them in paradise,
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how there will be unlimited food,
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and how this glory
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is going to propel them to become
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heroes in their neighborhoods.
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Effectively, this is the brainwashing process
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that has begun.
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Step five: I believe the Taliban have
04:51
one of the most effective
04:53
means of propaganda.
04:55
Their videos that they use
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are intercut with photographs
05:00
of men and women and children
05:03
dying in Iraq and Afghanistan
05:05
and in Pakistan.
05:07
And the basic message is that the Western powers
05:09
do not care about civilian deaths,
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so those people who live
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in areas and support governments
05:15
that work with Western powers are fair game.
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That's why Pakistani civilians,
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over 6,000 of whom have been killed in the last two years alone,
05:22
are fair game.
05:25
Now these children are primed
05:27
to become suicide bombers.
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They're ready to go out and fight
05:31
because they've been told that this is
05:33
effectively their only way
05:35
to glorify Islam.
05:37
I want you to watch another excerpt from the film.
05:39
This boy is called Zenola.
05:45
He blew himself up, killing six.
05:47
This boy is called Sadik.
05:52
He killed 22.
05:54
This boy is called Messoud.
05:59
He killed 28.
06:02
The Taliban are running suicide schools,
06:07
preparing a generation of boys
06:10
for atrocities against civilians.
06:12
Do you want to carry out a suicide attack?
06:16
Boy: I would love to.
06:19
But only if I get permission from my dad.
06:22
When I look at suicide bombers younger than me, or my age,
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I get so inspired by their terrific attacks.
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SOC: What blessing would you get
06:38
from carrying out a suicide attack?
06:40
Boy: On the day of judgment, God will ask me,
06:43
"Why did you do that?"
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I will answer, "My Lord! Only to make you happy!
06:51
I have laid down my life fighting the infidels."
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Then God will look at my intention.
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If my intention was to eradicate evil for Islam,
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then I will be rewarded with paradise.
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Singer: ♫ On the day of judgment ♫
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♫ My God will call me ♫
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♫ My body will be put back together ♫
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♫ And God will ask me why I did this ♫
07:35
SOC: I leave you all with this thought:
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If you grew up in these circumstances,
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faced with these choices,
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would you choose to live in this world
07:48
or in the glorious afterlife?
07:51
As one Taliban recruiter told me,
07:53
"There will always be sacrificial lambs in this war."
07:56
Thank you.
07:59
(Applause)
08:01

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About the speaker:

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy - Filmmaker
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy makes documentary films. She's the founder of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, dedicated to preserving Pakistan's history.

Why you should listen

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a film producer and journalist who has worked on 14 films for major networks in the United States and Britain. Her films include Children of the Taliban (with Dan Edge), The Lost Generation (about Iraqi exiles) and Afghanistan Unveiled. Her work has taken her around the world, where she has filmed and worked with refugees, women’s advocacy groups and human rights defenders. By bringing their voices to the outside world, she has often helped them bring about a critical change in their community.

Obaid-Chinoy helped found the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that fosters and promotes community-wide interest in the culture and history of Pakistan. Citizens Archive works with thousands of children, teaching critical thinking skills and instilling a sense of pride about their history and identity.

Obaid-Chinoy is a TED2010 Fellow.

More profile about the speaker
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy | Speaker | TED.com