Human Rights

Urgent Rehabilitation Efforts Are Needed For Children Liberated From ISIS

Iraq

Jada'an, a young Yazidi child, was one of 15 children rescued from ISIS' last stronghold of Baghouz in eastern Syria in March. However, after spending five years under the clutches of ISIS, he is struggling to reintegrate into his community.

Young Yazidi children who were kidnapped and groomed by ISIS need urgent psychological rehabilitation efforts to help alleviate their suffering. Jada’an, a Yazidi child, was captured by ISIS over five years ago. He says that he was forced to convert to Islam and participate in all the training camps at ISIS put them through.

“They taught us the Qur’an, Aqidah [creed], Fiqh [jurisprudence], and trained us on using weapons,” said Jada’an. “There was a war in Baghouz followed by a truce, and one militant told us to leave because it was better for us.”

Following their escape from Baghouz, Jada’an along with 15 other children were saved by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and then returned to their families.

The parents of these children, whilst happy for their return, say that their children must be rehabilitated as they have been severely affected by the time they spent with ISIS militants.

“He needs rest, respect, and good treatment. He must forget the five years he spent with ISIS,” said Jada’an’s father, who now says that his son is suffering from reoccurring temper tantrums and an inability to reintegrate with Yazidi society again.

Many groups and activists who have been trying to reunite Yazidi children with their families say that many of the families are shocked by the conditions that their children are in.

“These children, especially kids, may forget their parents or their language,” said Abdullah Shrem, an activist who works with Yazidi families. “The parents of children who have returned are suffering because they cannot communicate in Arabic [with their children].”

While ISIS has been defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria, the repercussions of the militant group continue to haunt the Yazidis who say their lives have never been the same again. To alleviate the pain that these groups are facing, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has established the Yazidi Rescue Office, which attempts to rehabilitate hundreds of children and return these children to their homes. Since the liberation of Baghouz, the Yazidi Rescue Office in Duhok has handled hundreds of cases, returning many women and children to their families in the Yazidi villages. However, they say that their efforts need to be further supported by the Iraqi Government for them to serve all of the Yazidis who have suffered under ISIS.

“These children were trained from an ideological and military perspective, and therefore they need to be rehabilitated again,” said Hussein Qa’edi, the head of the Yazidi Rescue Office in Duhok. “We also call upon the federal government, since Sinjar is under its control, to carry out its humanitarian duty and to open special centres for their rehabilitation.”

As the country continues to witness stability, Iraqis hope that their government can place further efforts on rehabilitating and reintroducing members of society who have been affected by ISIS so that one day that can be contributing members of the community.