The orphaned children of ISIS fighters currently being held in displacement camps in Baghouz, are falling prey to the clutches of extremist ideologies.
With no known fate or destination, thousands of children continue to linger in al-Hol camp, eastern Syria. Born to parents affiliated with ISIS, many are at risk of being radicalised in the displacement camps they are being held in. According to eyewitness accounts, over 300 children currently residing in al-Hol, which is located near the Syrian city of Baghouz in Deir ez-Zour Province, continue to be indoctrinated by more hardline militants, including many female ISIS members. In one of many instances, a reporter asks a female child if she wants to go back to her country of origin, Germany, and her response, delayed and confused: a short no. In another question posed to a young boy, he is pulled away by a woman before responding.
Following the militant group’s defeat in Syria in March of this year, thousands of children and women related to ISIS militants fled the city and sought refuge in the displacement camps set up by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
After thorough screening, the SDF placed these individuals in separate sections of the camp, while they awaited their fate.
According to officials, these women and children originate from over 40 different countries in the world. As a result, the SDF has called on those countries to repatriate their citizens so that they can receive rehabilitation and live amongst their extended families.
However, for the most part, these calls have fallen on deaf ears, as many countries have refused to take back their citizens. Some states have proposed that countries take back their citizens and provide them with psychological and social rehabilitation so that they can reintegrate back into society. While this solution is yet to be adopted, some experts say that the longer these children are kept in the camps, the higher the risk of further radicalisation occurring.
“We will teach children about jihad. I hope that the Islamic State will return,” said a wife of an ISIS militant.
Problems and Solutions
In addition to the suffering that they face in the displacement camps, children and Human Rights activists have pointed out that many children born to ISIS parents have no official documentation, which guarantees them an education, healthcare, and other essential services. Furthermore, the documentation issued by ISIS to these children does not mention their countries of origin. As a result, countries willing to repatriate their citizens are unable to do so, due to the lack of real evidence.
While this problem is ongoing, the Iraqi Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights announced at the beginning of this June that the Iraqi Government is expected to set up special courts, which will allow the children of ISIS to obtain official identification so that they are guaranteed their fundamental rights. The courts will use eyewitness accounts to cross-check the children’s origins so that they are eventually repatriated and given back to their families.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, over 45,000 children will potentially be affected by this decision.
While this is not a final solution for this issue, it is a good first step towards the alleviation of this crisis. Other countries must follow suit and support Iraq and Syria in their mission to rehabilitate children of ISIS militants.