Aid & Development

Psychological rehabilitation centre opens for Yazidi child soldiers under ISIS


A psychological centre in Dohuk, northern Iraq, is attempting to help Yazidi children overcome the painful memories of the past under ISIS.

Under ISIS, children faced untold horrors that haunt them to this very day. Thousands of children were forcefully recruited to become child soldiers under the group. The militants used to use children as cannon fodder and would regularly send them out on suicide bombing operations. The Children who fought for the group were known as the Cubs of the Caliphate and they were forced to carry out horrific acts on behalf of the group.

In Duhok, a new psychological rehabilitation centre has opened for specifically Yazidi children who were used by ISIS as child soldiers. The programs run by the centre aim to free the minds of children of the violence and hate embedded in them. One exercise encouraged is free drawing, where they allow the children to draw anything that comes to their mind. “Some paint rocket launchers, some paint car bombs, and some paint bombs,” described one worker at the centre.

Yazidi children, who’s parents were slaughtered or forced into slavery, were among the worst affected victims. Following the ISIS occupation of Sinjar and the subsequent massacre that took place in the city, hundreds of children were abducted and forcefully indoctrinated and turned into soldiers

According to recent studies 60% of the children who were members of ISIS were between the ages of 8 and 16. The group would forcefully recruit young children and indoctrinate them with their ideology and instil hate and violence in them. From a young age, these children were introduced to war and violence and coerced to perform violent acts as part of their training to be child soldiers. 

Kurdish Intelligence officials have revealed that thousands of children across Iraq and Syria were being exploited by ISIS to fight on the front lines and carry out suicide attacks. Observers say that the group used children in their operations because they were harder to detect by security forces. Iraqi Security Forces, while fighting in Mosul, discovered a list of 173 potential suicide bombers. 20 of these were children.

Centres such as the one recently opened in Duhok are essential for the rehabilitation of thousands of children who were both directly affected by ISIS through recruitment and violence and those who have been traumatised by years of war and suffering.