Human Rights

What Is Life Like For ISIS’ Former Child Soldiers In Iraq?


Many children born to ISIS parents in Iraq are facing an uncertain future, with governments not providing them with ID cards and their local communities shunning them.

The fate of former ISIS child soldiers continues to be uncertain, one and a half years after the militant group’s defeat in Iraq. While some children were too young to remember any of their lives under ISIS, other children were forced to join the militant group’s child soldier group, “the Cubs of the Caliphate.”

Those who were in the Cubs of the Caliphate were brainwashed and forced to carry out executions and participate in battles. Anas is a nine-year-old child whose father was the emir of the ISIS’ sniper division in Nineveh Province. Being the son of the emir, Anas was fed the extremist ideology, and trained to use different weapons and carry out various horrendous acts.

“I was wearing a Kandahar outfit and going with my father to train on sniping,” said Anas who now lives with his mother in a small unfinished house.

Following the liberation of Mosul, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) rescued Anas, who had lost consciousness and was buried beneath the rubble for six days. According to the forces that found him, Anas was with his father on the frontlines, who was sniping the advancing ISF.

“The security forces didn’t hurt us, but we are afraid of them,” said Anas.

The child’s mother says that since the defeat of the militant group, their family has not been able to live normally.

“I am suffering a lot, I cannot go to the government department to issue identification cards for my two daughters,” said Anas’s mother who now has to take care of her five children alone.

The issue of the children of ISIS militants and former child soldiers has been highly contested.

While some say that these children should be rehabilitated and integrated back into society, others say that tribes and locals whose families have been harmed by ISIS will seek to take revenge on them and their families.

Furthermore, governments have not been able solutions for this issue either.
“The government is unable to find a solution for those children whose parents have joined ISIS. The government refuses to give them Iraqi identities or even identity papers,” said Sukaina Mohammed, an official in the Office of the Nineveh Governor. “4,500 children are suffering from this problem.”

Without a definite solution for these children, many security experts say that they might be a security risk due to potential exploitation by militant groups. As a result, some NGOs and aid organisations have attempted to mitigate this issue by opening rehabilitation centres aimed at deradicalising these kids, under a definite solution, can be found.