As ISIS has experienced a dramatic demise in the past few months due to the victories against it in both Iraq and Syria, many of its militants are now located in areas not under the terrorist group’s control. In the north of Syria, there are projects being implemented to rehabilitate these former militants with the aim of reintegrating them into society. One such centre has been established in Marea, north of the city of Aleppo.
At the rehabilitation centre in Marea, former ISIS militants are divided into three categories: those who have not committed any crimes, those who have been complicit in crimes, and foreign militants. These are mainly militants that surrendered themselves to the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) during the course of the Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016.
These former militants are given lectures on religious belief and law. These lectures are aimed at countering the extremist interpretations of religion to which they have been exposed formerly. In addition, the former militants are provided with psychological counselling on an individual basis. The objective of these counselling sessions is to delve deep into the motivations for militants joining ISIS and to resolve these underlying psychological issues. Furthermore, they participate in meditation classes as well as sports activities throughout the day as a form of physical activity as well as providing a sense of belonging to a team and healthy competition.
The staff assess the former militants on a monthly basis and discuss the results of their assessments with the local authorities. A decision is then made on whether a former militant is ready to be released from the centre or not.
The issue of radicalisation remains a serious issue in Syria. Even with the end of the war, many people will continue to bear physical and mental, and efforts to rehabilitate such people have lagged behind across Syria. The opening of the centre in Marea comes shortly after a centre to treat the physical and psychological injuries of ISIS victims opened in Qamishli. It is hoped that centres such as these can proliferate, allowing more Syrians to move beyond the shadow of the conflict that has shattered so many lives.