Although ISIS continues to be a threat in parts of western Anbar, most notably Rawa and al-Qa’im, the areas of Iraq that have been liberated from the militant group are already seeing reconstruction efforts bearing fruit. Fallujah is one of these areas and since its liberation in June 2016, the city has made significant changes in numerous fields related to education, infrastructure, and electricity.
Fallujah lies 65 km west of Baghdad and had a pre-conflict population of more than 300,000 residents. Being the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS in January 2014, its liberation last year was referred to as the June victory, marking a major step toward unifying Iraq as stated by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
During Fallujah’s occupation, ISIS militants took over many public facilities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings. Liberating these facilities from the militants often came with heavy collateral damage. Moreover, ISIS militants themselves had been known to loot or destroy infrastructure as part of their scorched earth campaign. As a result, many liberated areas lack basic infrastructure and services.
ISIS intended to keep some of the schools open in order to spread its ideology among the fragile minds of the kids residing in Fallujah. Hatred, sectarianism, killing and war was all what was promoted under the ISIS curriculum in these schools. Cubs of the Caliphate was the term referred to the children who attended these schools. They were trained in an ISIS-approved religious curriculum, maintaining and firing guns, using explosive suicide belts, martial arts and other matters of warfare. Those who failed or tried to escape were punished severely with beatings and threatened with worse.
Meanwhile, dozens of schools have been reopened in Fallujah and reforming the curriculum has been given priority. The reforms incorporate a new way of teaching, which is considerate to the post-war psychological situation of the students. Classes incorporating the promotion of peace and learning foreign languages are included in the curriculum.
Education reform indicates the strong will of the Iraqis to restore stability and achieve prosperity via investing in their youngest minds.