Conflict

Raqqa children enjoy freedom after liberation from ISIS

Syria

Children at a school in Raqqa are recalling the suffering and restrictions imposed on students during ISIS' brutal rule.

Children in Raqqa are learning to live a life of freedom again after years under ISIS’ oppressive rule. Thousands of children in the city have lived under terror and fear. The group was notorious for handing down the most brutal of punishments to anyone who defied their rules. Public floggings and crippling fines were imposed on those who transgressed, and children were not exempted from this.

Children arguably suffered the most through the group’s indoctrination and brutality. ISIS formed a special division of child soldiers called the Cubs of the Caliphate. This division was devoted to militarising young men and instilling within them an insatiable need for violence, while simultaneously training them in the group’s ideology and warfare tactics. The training was rigorous and was carried out with the intention of turning innocent children into killing machines.

Many other children were also exposed to violent acts and the group’s propaganda in order to desensitise and indoctrinate them to a life of war and killing. Those who managed to escaped the clutches of the so-called Islamic State now recall how ISIS militants destroyed school life, and their freedom and in the process halting their education for several years.

We were tired during ISIS control because we weren’t allowed to go to school or play around or wear different styles of clothing. They made us hate everything,” recalls one child who lived in misery under the group.

Another child recounted how the militants would forcefully train them to take part in combat: “they taught us how to use weapons and how to deal with bombs.”

However, since the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS control, many children are starting to enjoy a life of freedom, despite the obvious challenges they face on a daily basis. Schools have began to re-open their doors in the city and charity groups are working hard to help children recover from the the affects of war. Examples of this include the charity al-Ber and al-Ihsan, which has set up a project entitled ‘Friendly Space for a Child,’ which aims to help children overcome the traumatic memories of life under ISIS.