The psychological damage inflicted on children from Mosul

The oppression of citizens in Mosul by ISIS militants not only produced extensive physical damage to properties and people, but also conditioned in the minds of the youth feelings of hatred towards other faiths, a militant outlook on life and also sowed the seeds of severe psychological damage.

During the rule of ISIS, children and young adults were enticed to join the “Cubs of the Caliphate”. They and their families were promised protection, gifts, glory and a sense of purpose. Many families who supported the caliphate wilfully brought their children forward to join; others who were opposed to the caliphate had to take their children out of schools as militants would scout for members in schools. This meant that many children were either left with a poor education or no education at all.

As time passed the militants’ use of violence would increase. Residents were forced to watch public executions such as beheadings, public lashings and hangings. “ISIS militants wanted to throw someone from the roof of the building to the ground,” said a child formerly under ISIS rule in Mosul. “One man finished praying and drank water, and then they threw him from the roof of the building to the ground. I went to him, all his bones were broken”.

Scenes like these were commonplace; children and adults alike were conditioned to accept them as normal which completely warped their sense of ethics and cultivated deep psychological trauma. To address the psychological impacts, a group of civil society organisations launched the “Mudafa’a [Defendant] program”. This program is designed to erase the memory of violence from the imagination of thousands of Mosul children through an awareness program to promote tolerance.

These programs are essential not only for the psychological wellbeing of children and young adults who are suffering but also severe a purpose for the safety of the society at large. In Syria for example, UN aid workers report that mothers have to hide knives from their children as they believe themselves to be at risk.

“They are affected by violence, the child has a desire to kill, and he became trained to kill”, says a civil society representative. The child “has a hatred for the others and does not accept the rest of the religions. He does not accept any partner in society. This child is a bomb which could destroy the society”.