ISIS Cubs & Women – From Radicalization to Rehabilitation

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Ozer Khalid*

*
The author is a Senior Consultant, Geo-Strategist, Development Sector Specialist and International Writer. He can be reached on ozzerkhalid@gmail.com or Twitter followed on @ozerkhalid

Abstract

(This paper amply illustrates that the “smallest” of IS returnees present the “biggest” of problems… ISIS attracted an uncharacteristically high number of foreign fighters, many of whom died on the battlefield leaving young orphans and widows to rot and perilously perish in the war-torn wasteland of former ISIS territory 1. Territorially defeated, morally dejected, left lurking in the lurch after being bitterly abused and tortured, many former ISIS orphans and widows have now returned to their countries of origin, or perish in unforgiving refugee camps. –Author)

Introduction – Women and Child Soldiers: Lions or Lams?

Returning IS children represents childhood under fire 2, their lives and those of ISIS women/widows have been set ablaze by incendiary stigma, corrosive stereotyping and sexual abuse.

ISIS attracted an uncharacteristically high number of foreign fighters, many of whom died on the battlefield leaving young orphans and widows to rot and perilously perish in the war-torn wasteland of former ISIS territory 3. Territorially defeated, morally dejected, left lurking in the lurch after being bitterly abused and tortured, many former ISIS orphans and widows have now returned to their countries of origin, or perish in unforgiving refugee camps, genuinely alleging that they “repent” their misdeeds. ISIS is estimated to have recruited 2,000 children 4, known as “ashbal al khilafa” or the “lion Cubs of the Caliphate”.

The sheer gravity of child and widow recruitment is statistically exhibited hereunder illustrating just how many women under the tender age of 18 tied the knot with ISIS heathen husbands.

 Pic-1

      Source: Women in Syria who got married to ISIS members (2017) Sound and Picture.

Pic-2

Source: Children of IS Group (2017) Agence France Press.

Appropriate preventative measures are required to be promptly devised to create resilience between refugee communities, ISIS women and children family reconciliation and conflict resolution (many families often socially sanction and do not want to take back ISIL returnees, even their own flesh and blood, to preserve their family “honour”).

Adequate education and employment opportunities are not offered as employers shun the “emotional baggage” carried by IS returnees. The prospects for ISIS women/widow`s remarriage are tainted with taboo as having been on the ISIL battlefield does not go down too well (to put it euphemistically) with future in-laws.

If left unattended, former IS child soldiers and females risk the burning fate of being forced into child labour 5, prostitution or becoming the victims of human and organ trafficking, especially in the sinister underbelly of organized crime syndicates, now mushrooming and made easier through the unregulated dark web, crypto currencies, less traceable digital wallets, encrypted payment systems, etc.

Returning ISIS women have already undergone unacceptable Gender Based Violence (GBV) 6, torture, abuse and sexual discrimination. The sexual abuse often continues away from the battlefield at the refugee camps 7. Sexual exploitation was especially rampantly acute for former ISIS Syrian widows and other women at Jordanian camps.

Authorities need to crack down especially on child and female recruitment. So are ISIS returning children lions or lambs? Are they wolves in sheep`s clothing? There are no simple answers. Like all else in life, it varies from case to case. Some pretend to be lambs but are lions, and naturally these are the ones law enforcement are keeping tabs on. We need to better discern if the child soldiers who ended up in ISIS hell-holes partook in processes, whether they were coerced, or engaged in self-recruitment (unlikely as tender children often lack “agency”).

As the destiny of IS returnees dangles on a fine thread, the pressing moral conundrum is, are truly repenting IS returnees “terrorists” or “victims”? Are they “innocent” or “insidious” and complicit? Let us remember that some children as young as three years of age have mercilessly killed innocent victims in Syria and Iraq having been brain-washed, trained and indoctrinated by ISIS top brass.

A meticulous mapping of child soldier and female/teenage recruitment patterns, a systematic crackdown on child and female recruitment must hasten to adjust responses and mobilize partners (police, border control personnel, the education system, the health system, etc.). Organizations need to earmark budgets and judiciously target resources to step-by-step methodically inculcate preparedness in truly repenting ISIS returnees.

Authorities must partake in actively trying to better pinpoint and infiltrate such criminal human trafficking syndicates often in a hand-in-glove relationship with terrorists, both online and offline. Services for former IS children and widows in refugee camps must be devised to stealthily discourage recruitment via rehabilitation and reverse social engineering. Radical recruitment at refugee camps is ripe and endemic 8. The international donor community must take the lead here.

Even the international donor community is tainted with systematic sexual abuse horror stories. The recent Oxfam sexual scandal where aid workers actively used prostitutes in Haiti, in return for aid money illustrates that donor organizations too need to get their own houses in order before playing “Mother Theresa”.

The international donor community must insist that the disbursement of funds to refugee camps be made strictly contingent on safeguarding the protection of minors and women linking the funding to transparent proof of child protection from armed groups and militias. States need to ensure legal obligations are honored and especially monitor the passing of women and children from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon 9, Jordan and Turkey further afield.

Returning men can face tougher sanctions and the full force of the law, but how to deal (especially) with orphans and widows is vexing the most seasoned of policy-makers. There are no silver bullets, no easy answers. There is no majority consensus on how to decide the treatment, especially of IS returning sexually abused and traumatized widows and children, which leads to many ethical, legal and policy dilemmas.

Policy-makers, before finalizing the fate of the so-called Jihadi Janes and the Cubs of the Caliphate (orphans) need to ensure they have broad-ranging stakeholder policy input and recommendations from the widest community of law-makers, human rights activists, aid workers, psychologists, criminologists, and international diplomats.

The challenge for our global community importantly remains: How to confront and tackle evil without ever becoming it.

Viewed philosophically, as initially espoused by the Greeks and subsequently by Nietzsche 10, the “Dionysian” world-view underscores the notion that children are corrupt and evil, whereas the “Apollonian” approach deems children to be innocent and pure. The “Dionysian” versus “Apollonian” moral dichotomy highlight the conflicting concepts of children as “victims” versus children as “villains”. How we view children on this moral spectrum is essential to consider for it bears far-reaching ramifications on the way in which children (and orphans in particular) will be treated when they return to their countries of origin, especially ISIS orphans or so-called “Jihadi Cubs” or “Jihadi Juniors”.

This Criterion Quarterly author personally and ideologically leans towards the “Apollonian” 11 view and also feels that there are no simple binaries, and that each child/widow`s circumstance needs to carefully and cautiously be considered on a case by case basis. Of course this is nor a carte blanche or free license to forgive or forget their misdeeds with any magical wand, rather it is a plea that due process must take it`s course. Obviously minors and widows proven legally guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” must face the music and end up in detention centers. However, let us never forget that today`s Cubs of the Caliphate and ISIS Widows can be cultivated and become the “eyes and ears” of a counter-intelligence community.

An Intoxicating Honey Trap – Why Terrorists prefer Women & Child Soldiers

Terrorists prefer child soldiers as they are easier to mold and manipulate, lack independent critical thinking faculties, are more emotionally vulnerable, yearn for group approval, are wet behind the ears, thirst for social acceptance and belonging, and remain malleable to poisonous propaganda. Children consume less resources, eat less food and represent less of a financial overhead, and are quick to learn how to use lighter weapons.

Many such IS so-called Jihadi Juniors or Cubs of the Caliphate have been orphaned, have nothing to lose, and were easily conscripted. Many IS orphans and widows felt that they were living on borrowed time.

IS children are those for whom first came the sweets then the beheadings 12. These IS child soldiers are/were often treated as lost luggage, lost belongings, and are often not even paid (unlike adults). Goals do not matter when you are fighting to save your life.

Most tragically, with nothing to lose, nowhere to go, with no ethical compass such children constitute not just the greatest vulnerability but also the gravest threat. Those in the Middle East bear a huge probability of being recruited in the near future as mercenaries to the highest bidder. Child soldiers often slip across already fragile porous borders in broken states. Child soldiers fighting for Uganda`s Lord Resistance Army, for instance, spilled over to South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic. Boko Haram, now hatching a marriage of convenience with IS in Nigeria, has its hellish eyes on them.

Terrorist death cults prefer women to be present on battlefields because they horribly use and abuse females (often under-aged). Women are reduced to sex slaves; child-making machines to populate the armies battling the “infidels and Crusaders”. Terrorist top brass pass women on like chattel, especially after their husbands die, forcefully fulfilling their most depraved fantasies and fetishes.

Child soldiers often have “gendered” roles. IS male boy soldiers were/are often conscripted for front-line operations and are battle-hardened and trigger-happy all out to prove their macho manhood, whereas young girls 13 conduct support roles such as cooking, collecting wood for fire, and stomach-churningly acting 14 as sex slaves for so-called Caliph Commanders. With their chastity ruthlessly robbed these females might be cursed with haunting intimacy issues throughout their lifespan.

The alarming number of so-called Junior Jihadis left orphaned, used as human shields 15 and brain-washed in the corridors of so-called Caliphate quarters (after their fathers died) is especially worrisome.

Children prove to be lethal killing machines for terrorists and tyrants. The child soldiers who maintained the notorious blood diamond trade in Sierra Leone are a stark reminder. Psychologist Albert Bandura in his pioneering Bobo doll experiment concluded that children (pre-dominantly boys but girls too) when observing elder role models behave harshly are likely not only to reciprocate that harsh behaviour but amplify the violence inflicted on the subject concerned.

Bandura`s findings conceptually coincide with psychologists Stanley Milgram and Zimbardo who scientifically proved that young participants, if given the apparatus, attire and paraphernalia of authority are easily intoxicated by power, lulled into inflicting maximum pain, disproportionately likelier to “abuse power” with an alarming propensity toward violence. Such empirical studies worryingly suggest an almost hard-wired human proclivity towards sadistic violence.

Many brain-washed but lethally sharp IS loyalists, such as the so-called Jihadi brides 16 (a lot of whom are now embittered and traumatized widows) and Jihadi Junior Cubs (indoctrinated infants starting from tender three year olds upwards), will inevitably camouflage themselves as refugees, get smuggled from Iraq and Syria to fragile states and power vacuums, from Northern Africa to Southern and Central Asia, or via Manbij into Turkey, their essential gateway into the EU, where they will cunningly melt into civil society, tacitly reconnect with other returned IS members, and then wreak havoc once the dust settles.

Pic-3

                            Source: Two former ISIL cubs enact a beheading (2018) via Al Jazeera

ISIS Widows and Child Soldiers – Innocent or Insidious?

The moral quandary of deciding whether IS widows and child soldiers returning to their countries of origin is contingent on multi-faceted realities. It totally depends on the ways in which the children got involved in battle and terrorism. There’s a whole range on the moral spectrum from luring and persuasion towards militancy to out-and-out coercion. Some children in orphanages and hospitals in Syria and Iraq were just kidnapped, kept hostage, then given light arms training and were forced to the blood-baths of Mosul, Manbij, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa and other former IS strangleholds.

Certain (unwanted) children were handed over by the parents to IS sub-human extremists. Others joined ISIL by means of Darwinian self-preservation, to ensure that their families would get to keep their house, were guaranteed three meals a day and were offered a living stipend.

ISIL and future terrorists will deploy a myriad of stratagems to draw children in. On some occasions, Al-Baghdadi`s death cult would host ceremonial events and offer free candy or Barbie dolls (bribes). Or they would instruct the Cubs of the so-called Caliphate to parade along the blood-drenched body-strewn streets of Raqqa, Mosul, Manbij and Deir Ezzor in flashy shiny uniforms so that the other children would naively admire the Cubs and blindly aspire to be like them, to emulate them.

ISIS made membership of the Caliphate Cubs exclusive, a rare status to be “earned” rather than handed over on a silver platter. This created an intensified demand to be part of the “elite” Cubs.

For many destitute widows and children ISIS was, in bitter irony, the safest place to go, to be protected from what was going on in the country. Once entered into the Dante`s Inferno of IS, there was often no other option than to kill or be killed, do or die. If they didn’t kill, they would get killed. It was a veritable “Anaximanderian 17 state of primal chaos”, where in Nietschain terms, these children and widows saw destruction not only as survival but as penance 18.

Cubs and Wife Warriors had to bitterly fight for ammunition, fight for food, fight for every living breath. Killing became like breathing. Many didn’t even think about it. The ISIS army became their bastardized newly adopted family. It’s all they knew and all they thought their life would become. This haunting reality will take years if not generations to change.

When they return back they are often unwelcome undesirables in their homes, especially if their family members have worked hard for opportunities. A lot of the returning militants and Jihadi Janes might be revoked from employment, as they are “guilty by association”. Returning IS members will also, given their track record be less likely to find employment, education and good healthcare. We live in a dauntingly debt-strapped world, especially in Europe, where social services like the National Health Service is debt laden.

Returning militants will face a financial onus, which states and societies must collectively bear. Not integrating these members will garner long-term social and safety hazards. This perceived injustice will fuel a sense of victimhood mind-set and feed into a grievance narrative, which will be easily exploited by recruitment-hungry militants. Returning extremists, no matter what their gender, age or economic status, will carry on being the black sheep of their communities – many former IS wives suffer this fate. To compound the problem, widows and children are often assaulted in refugee camps, so they go straight from the frying pan into the fire.

The Intelligence Value of ISIS Returnees – Digital Reconnaissance Missions

A cognitive distinction must be made between the children who were “exposed” to violence and children who actually “participated” in it – the ones with blood on their hands. Hence we need to make finer distinctions. Trigger-happy blanket prosecution is neither advisable nor does it serve longer-term counter terror strategic objectives.

Understandably it’s going to be a much more tenuous exercise to re-integrate children and widows who are seen as “unwanted goods”. We cannot blindly take for granted that just because they’re children, they’re innocent, or that they are not part of covert sleeper cells planning to strike terror years from now.

No one in human history can cite a war that children under 18 initiated all on their own. ISIL returnees will face the heaviest stigma, many will have to or are already leading lives in anonymity.

It is fool-hardy to assume that the former ISIS widows will totally cut off the umbilical cord of communication with other ISIS “sisters and brothers”. Cultivating widows and eventually orphans as “assets” is paramount for law enforcement and the intelligence community, who can ensure these widows and orphans (once treated for trauma) transform into immensely precious resources in pin-pointing future ISIS plans, identifying targets, discerning interventions and future IS modus operandi, especially since ISIS now operates from the sinister underground, from the shadows of social media and the deep dark web, empowering them as inter-state tactical agents 19.

The feminist Germaine Greer wisely suggests that IS returness need to be “debriefed”, and as such can act as valuable sources of intelligence input and gathering to expose the wider terror network.

IS returnees can be at the very forefront of what this CQ author terms and trademarks as Digital Reconnaissance Missions (DRM`s) which involves a carefully calibrated intelligence.

International prosecutors need to take a pause and not impose blind sanctions vis-à-vis these IS widows and cubs (so-called Jihadi Juniors). ISIS widows and orphans can be infinitely invaluable in sharing mission-critical time-sensitive life-saving intelligence.

Cultivating “assets” especially ones IS militants are least likely to suspect (i.e. widows and orphans) will be key in foiling multiple future terrorist plots.

IS widows and eventually orphans can more easily camouflage and blend into radical chat rooms, groups and the deep web while being continuously and carefully trained, fully vetted and monitored by law enforcement. In this way they could complement authorities in their efforts against the deadly “Digital Caliphate” which now focuses on “lone-wolves”.

ISIS widows and orphans can more easily feign vulnerability and innocence to dupe existing IS militants in hiding, operate more efficiently in “deep cover” and act as cyber virtual armies to ascertain emerging and future recruitment techniques deployed by IS, it`s affiliates and it`s sleeper cells.

Their intelligence-led Digital Reconnaissance Mission (DRM) for IS child soldiers and widows can, inter alia, include:

  1. Which IS members have fled to which far-flung regions of the world.
  1. What type of strategic regional and pan-national alliances IS are forging with local militants (especially in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Philippines, Indonesia, Somalia, Libya, Bangladesh 20, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Central Asian Republics and Europe).
  1. Which future radical outfits do IS plan to link up with.
  1. How are IS militants in hiding luring “lone wolves” – techniques, trend mapping and what type of future online and terrestrial attacks they plan and where exactly.
  1. Identify new social media on which IS 2.0 are rapidly migrating, which are their proxy cyber identities/bot accounts.
  1. Women and orphans pretending to need “funding for the so called Jihadi cause” can even extract the digital wallets and PIN numbers of IS miscreants on the deep web.
  1. Ascertain which crypto-currencies are most being used by which IS cells.

The Legal Status of Militants & IS Returnees

The case of Pakistan and Kasur bitterly remind us that the existence of “law” does not mean that “justice” is rendered. “Law” and “justice” are mutually interdependent only in Plato`s cave, in a utopia, in an “ideal world”, not in our real world where power, politics, lobbying, statecraft, vested interests and influence contest and conspire for influence.

While the “laws” will and must be followed, real “justice” can be served by socially “mainstreaming” (re-integrating) the least divisive and controversial former ISIS participants (i.e. widows and orphans).

Legally speaking, staunch and (overly) precautious conservative hard-liners insist that the fate of all these orphans and widows resides behind bars. More extremist right-wingers are hell-bent on bringing back the death penalty.

In Pakistan former President Zardari abolished capital punishment but former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif brought it back.

Firstly capital punishment is (at best) a blunt legal instrument for it does not act as a “credible deterrence” mechanism for emotionless hardened criminals. Many U.S. convicts on Death Row, for instance, wear their impending electrocution as a badge of honor giving them venerable “street credibility” from the rough and tough neighborhoods in which they grew up.

In the United Kingdom, Rory Stewart, a hard-line Conservative Tory member over-eggs the proverbial pudding by saying that (all) IS returnees ought to all be mercilessly killed via capital punishment. Ultra-Conservative Far-Right hard-liners insist on reviving the laws of Treason against IS returnees. Scrapped by Tony Blair 21, the Law of Treason 22 came into force in 1351 during Edward the III`s reign and has not been applied in the UK since World War 2, where the Act was last used to prosecute William Joyce in 1945 and other Nazi collaborators.

UK`s Treason Act stipulates no war against the Sovereign and requires a swearing of allegiance to Queen and Country, whereby anyone found guilty of treason would be beheaded via capital punishment. This author personally believes that capital punishment is as essentially wrong a cure for crime as gratuitous charity is as wrong a cure for poverty. Capital punishment misses the potential for redemption, the possibility of cultivating former repentant culprits as “informers” to law enforcement and most importantly misses the “nuance” that each case needs to be judged on it`s own merit. Let humanity never forget that:

             Tyranny is the absence of nuance.

Many right-wing hard-liners even request “public executions”. Capital punishment behind closed doors is one thing. Public executions to celebrate blood and gore for all to see is quite another. A de-sensitization to gratuitous violence will be our society`s unraveling.

ISIS and the Taleban practice “public executions” so are we to stoop down to their indignant level of shameless depravity? The late and great human rights icon Asma Jahangir warned us against such toxic behaviour. Asma Jahangir`s activism is so powerful that it haunts her enemies even from her grave. The bile they spewed unto her disgraces only them and reveals an achingly sinister extremism lurking within our own society.

Iraqi judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar recently confirmed that a Turkish lady, a German woman and a Russian fighter were sentenced to death in Iraq in January 2018 for joining the hard-line heathens of ISIS 23.

Capital punishment in extreme cases, like the APS Peshawar attack, may be an exception, even for liberal minds such as my own, but “publically executing” people and euphorically reveling in their blood and gore is a harbinger for vigilantism, a mob mentality. It is this very mob mentality that fuels the fire of cow vigilantes haunting Muslim minorities who are indiscriminately raped and then lynched to death in India.

Pakistan`s Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) recent recommendation to allow“public hangings” without recourse to legislation on the subject matter is highly inflammatory. By contrast, learned Islamic scholars contend that to deter forthcoming crime “reporting” the execution rather than actually carrying out an execution in public is much more potent in prevention. Public executions do not offer tangible, empirically proven remedies to horrid child sex abuse nor to the breeding of future militants, be they IS or otherwise.

Pakistan`s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) endeavours to bring public executions via the auspices of Section 10 of the Special Courts for Speedy Trials Act, 1992 and Rule 364 24 of the Jail Manual taken from Pakistan`s 1978 Prison Rules 25, neither of which serve to enhance the legal veracity of their misguided reasoning. Rule 364 allows relatives to attend, not “strangers” and “mobs” yearning for jungle-like primordial vigilantism.

The Special Courts for Speedy Trials Act, 1992 has hitherto been revoked under an authoritative publication in the Gazette of Pakistan dating back to 1996 and reported under SCMR 1028 26. As per Section 2(1), “the Special Courts for Speedy Trials Act, 1992 (IX of 1992), shall stand repealed from…July 26, 1994” 27.

Therefore the CII seeking legal refuge in Section 10 is self-defeating and inherently contradictory. Pakistan`s Supreme Court affirmed and rendered a verdict in the judgment that public hangings, even for the “worst” of criminals, violate the right to human dignity as articulated in Article 14 of Pakistan`s Constitution. The CII by contravening recommendations that blatantly run contrary to legal promulgations rendered by the Supreme Court, “might”, say certain legal experts, even have “allegedly”committed contempt.

In the case of Dr Kumail Abbas Rizvi v UOP 28, the Supreme Court, with reference to Article 14 of the Constitution 29 authoritatively declared “The right to dignity was one of the cardinal principles of law and most valuable right, which had to be observed in every civilized society – human dignity, honour and respect was more important than physical comforts and necessities”. In Dr M Aslam Khaki v. Federation of Pakistan 30 the Supreme Court emphasized that the Holy Quran “confers human dignity upon every person… subject to [the] law, the privacy of human being is also inviolable”.

It can thus be reasoned that the recommendations proposed by the CII vis-à-vis public executions represent a non-adherence to the very teachings of Islam. They ill-serve the needs of a rule and rights-based society 31.

Suggested public executions of returning ISIS fighters by radical elements within parties like the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Golden Dawn in Greece (which hosts huge swathes of refugees with IS widows and orphans) and similar sentiments echoed in Hungary and Poland would take these societies back to the Jacobin Robbespierre Guillotine days. This is a Kafkaesque and Dickensian nightmare come true. Charles Dickens vividly critiqued the butchery at the Bastille and the mob mentality`s propensity to violence in his seminal “A Tale of Two Cities”.

Shamelessly stooping down to ISIS and Taleban levels of public execution blood-lust is a bigotry of the lowest expectations. It is bitter irony swallowing it`s own self.

More so, as long as capital punishment exists, there is no guarantee that “innocent people” will not be put to death in a desperate hurry to placate revenge thirsty radicals who want to see blood spilled from their Facebook walls and Twitter timelines to the public streets. When electoral cycles are nearby, politicians yearn for public appeasement, hastening “justice”, meddling with the judiciary, attempting to introduce dark draconian laws.

A society should vouch for “legal trials” but we now witness “media trials”, popularity stunts instead of due process, where the “court of fringe opinion” trumps that of “legal opinion”. ISIS returnees deserve impartial free, fair and facts based dispassionate “legal trials” not emotionally triggered “media trials”. The views expressed by this author might be decidedly unpopular, but they honestly aspire to counter long term radicalization by instilling far-reaching forward-thinking strategic social mind-sets and nurture “preventative behaviour” rather than go for the much easier, knee-jerk shoot-from-the-hip mob mentality appeasing popular platitudes.

Let us remember that many women and especially children were inadvertently embroiled in terror, forced to fight in distant lands.

Many factors need to sensitively be considered when deciding the future fate and legal sanction for women and children especially. How far up the IS food chain were they? Were they on the battlefield, the frontlines or in a support role? Do they have prior convictions and if so how heinous? Are they reoffenders? Come what may, justice must of course, blindly and judiciously be applied on a merit case-by-case basis.

Many IS child soldiers 32, were also forcibly conscripted from Indonesia and the Philippines, as IS tries to gain a foothold in Muslim majority countries. UNICEF reported that in 2015 in Yemen alone, 1500 children were conscripted and 2000 children were recently recruited to Boko Haram 33, who have pledged allegiance to IS 34. Boko Haram despicably uses little girls for suicide bombings.

To unnecessarily vilify, dehumanize and demonise all returness outright would give birth to more innate grievances. Especially leaving children stranded and stateless is counter-productive and violates the 1996 European Convention on the Exercise of Children`s Rights, the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the 2007 Paris Commitments which lay out guidelines for protecting children from conflict zones.

Most analysts agree that grown ISIS returning men, should of course, face harsher sentencing, if proven guilty of crimes, but the punishment should always be proportional to the crime and not disproportionate. Caveat: former ISIS militants who end up behind bars are likely to ideologically co-opt and contaminate fellow prison cell-mates who are already vulnerable and yearn for group belonging, making them easy prey. Some Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden have already successfully mainstreamed “repentant” former radicals and re-integrated them back into their societies, thereby preventing them from indoctrinating prisoners who are statistically likely to be repeat offences 35. Prisons are swarming cesspools for filthy terrorist recruitment.

Certain countries adopted an accommodating “open door” policy towards refugees and ISIS returnees, such as Germany and Sweden, for which Mrs Merkel had to politically pay dearly in the 2017 German General Elections where far-right fascists grabbed unhealthy doses of the Bundestag.

Angela Merkel has unfairly been vilified for her open door policy of letting in 1.1 million refugees out of which very few are inevitably terrorists.

Rabid right-wingers purposely stir up hate and hysteria, contending that both Germany and Sweden have become havens for harassment, rape and terror. Germany`s terror incidents in Hamburg, Wurzberg and the Berlin Christmas Market attack certainly did not help. As hideously unfortunate as such vile terror acts are, there will inevitably always be terrorists masquerading as refugees worming their way into the vulnerable arteries of host and home countries. However, this cannot and should not scape-goat the inviolable human rights which refugees are entitled to under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through the auspices of the Geneva Convention and other authoritative international legal treaties.

Psychologically Re-Integrating ISIS Returnees

Probing deeper, psychologically, philosophically and morally, such dilemmas of how to treat ISIS returnees are never cut and dry, black or white, a binary simplistic, but rather subtler and nuanced realities.

Psychologically, the international community needs to address, balance and calibrate what eminent psychologist Karl Gustav Jung dubbed the archetypical shadow selves, the sub-conscious darker biology of such IS returnees.

As per the psychologist Karl Gustav Jung, all humans have shadow selves, what he referred to as the “darker biology” to varying degrees of intensity, lurking within us all. Whereas Sigmund Freud 36 contended that the “shadow self” (the “Id”) of our “darker biology” should find full expression because he reasoned that if bottled up it could cause more harm than good. Jung, with more nuanced subtle sophistication, urged humanity to fully acknowledge yet cautiously tame such dark impulses to avoid the unleashing of a living hell, both within ourselves and without, internally and externally.

Contrary to the Freudian “shadow” the Jungian 37 shadow includes everything outside the light of consciousness, and can be both positive or negative, like an electricity current and charge.

To know oneself one must accept one`s dark side but seek to socially reconcile it. The Jungian 38 “shadow” often operates on the sub-conscious level and humans, especially former extremists, even desperately repentant ones, often remain ignorant of their own least desirable character traits. This in turn unleashes anxieties, self-esteem issues, deep depression, therefore, balancing, moderating and taming the Jungian “shadow” within former ISIS members (before socially re-integrating them) requires rapid longitudinal (long term) psychological intervention. This is why counseling must gain more international state funding and recognition.

Psychological counseling and interventions to socially normalize and re-integrate ISIS widows and former “Caliphate Cubs” robbed of their childhood suffering trauma must include highly specialized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Neuro Linguistic Therapy (NLP), Thought Field Therapy, Primordial Energy Activation and Transcendence (PEAT) in tandem with other empirically tested and scientifically verifiable procedures.

After personality inventory testing (utilizing for instance the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to help determine which specific intervention would be most useful per person) long-term powerfully proven techniques such as CBT, EFT, NLP and PEAT interventions will dramatically help in reducing anxiety, depression, fear, phobias and other disorders, not only making former ISIS returnees functioning members of society, but, equally important, vital “assets” for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help locate, track and triangulate remaining unrepentant shady ISIS terrorists from their hidden sanctuaries.

ISIS widows and former IS Cubs and orphans are especially deserving of such interventions. They have to suffer the sharp sting of social stigma, being unwanted by their own families and communities due to the image and reputational costs they have inflicted upon their nearest and dearest.

ISIS Cubs & Women – From Radicalization to Rehabilitation

How to deal with returning IS terrorists is a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional 39 historical undertaking requiring imaginative social reengineering and re-socialization with distinctly cautious yet humane, accommodating and liberal set of values rather than slap-dash knee-jerk draconian punitive measures.

Left-wing liberals and human rights advocates posit that it is deliberately disingenuous to conflate refugees with terrorists, even though inevitably some hardened terrorists will always seep through the security cracks, camouflaging themselves as destitute asylum-seekers.

Defense attorneys assert that IS fighters are entitled to legal due process, premised on the legal maxims of the rule of law and of being innocent until and unless proven guilty. Similar commentators put forward the argument that indefinitely keeping returnees in detention centers is anathema to justice. Many prisons are already over-flowing and remain insidious cesspools of radicalization and de facto recruitment camps for hardened terror thugs. Prisons and current correctional facilities often bring out the worst in human nature – the Nietzschean beast within humans – reconfirming negative ideological persuasions.

Theorist Antonio Gramsci reasoned that prisons are bastions for reinforcing hegemonic propaganda. Prison and criminal justice system reform is urgently required.

IS returness might be held in detention, for long periods of time (if needed) but not indefinitely. A thorough vetting must take place and law enforcement agents must positively assert that the concerned former IS members no longer pose a threat to the state and citizenry. Evidence gathering, trial proceedings, discovery and expert testimony, by course of necessity, will be pursued.

For returning fighters, where and when crimes against humanity or even lesser culpabilities have been legally proven “beyond reasonable doubt”, proportional prosecution is essential for it will set essential precedents and future deterrence.

Germany, the Netherlands 40 and Denmark offered repenting IS returnees (post-trial) psychological counseling, employment and education. Sweden went even a step further by giving certain returnees a new identity.

Max Hill, QC, of the UK`s Counter Terrorism Watchdog, makes a valid point by reasoning that we simply cannot afford to lose another generation to radicalism due to the epic mistakes of naïve teenagers. He cites rehabilitation and social reintegration as key factors to help steer children and teenagers away from extremism.

Most IS returnees will require social support systems (both social and institutional), counseling sessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to deal with their trauma 41, mental reframing via Neuro Linguistic Programming and evidence based mental health interventions linked to real-life outcomes and livelihood.

A thorough debriefing of such returnees is required to better probe their motivations for deserting civilisation, to assess and realistically address their underlying grievances, both personal and political. When, where and if applicable, suitable returnees can be relied upon for unveiling the wider terror network and unearth remaining IS details and sanctuaries. They can become vital assets in the ongoing generational ideological struggle that is counter-terrorism.

Re-integrating Former IS Child Soldiers & Wives A Reform Roadmap

Many of the children who fought for ISIL, were brain-washed beyond belief. But for the ones who were 16 or above when they joined, it’s tougher. In order to stem the brainwashing, to contain their subversive Pavlovian conditioning, “reverse social engineering” will be required by the most trained and specialized of therapists. They need the strongest social support network to fall back on. It’s not easy. It’s going to take some time, but it is possible.

In order to truly reintegrate genuinely repentant and returning IS wives, widows and child soldiers – especially those who did not partake in violence – opening up “re-integration centres” can prove immeasurably useful. At these centers victims can be counseled and allowed to “vent” out their palpable frustrations and grievances, to ease the emotional trauma.

The re-integration centers can rehabilitate and culturally re-sensitize (just as refugees are) Cubs and former Jihadi brides to better socially amalgamate in their host countries. These centers can be unique “safe spaces” to act as sanctuaries for healing, redemption and social mainstreaming. What will truly make the difference are staff members who can uplift morale and spirits. The gender composition at these centers should be mixed and diverse to curtail potential for abuse.

A lot of innocent (or at least less culpable) IS returning widows and children should rapidly move from refugee camps (where they are often bullied, not just in Calais but at the grueling make-shift camps in Syria and Iraq) to the societies they are meant to be in. Humanitarian agencies, especially the UN Refugee Commission and UNICEF can expedite the departure from refugee camps to host countries. IS widows and cubs should be handed over to agencies like UNICEF who need to assume the mantra of leadership, rescue, relief, rehabilitation, reintegration and after-care.

Former IS Cubs should be given the opportunity to go to school and make something of their lives, realizing their full potential. Their intelligence can be redirected toward campaigns centered on counter-narratives and anti-extremism. The misfits of today can become the pioneers and role-models of tomorrow.

Forging new memories to compete with existing acute trauma remains the challenge and the scope, an obstacle and an opportunity. No one comes devastated and ravaged from war, often suffering PTSD and recovers over night with a magic wand. Healing, inclusion, social actualization models (many already afoot in Scandinavia) require multilateral and multi-stakeholder support and resources. These Cubs and widows will need to learn to believe in society and the essential good in people again.

Former child soldiers and so called Jihadi Janes create the skin-deep superficial expectation that if you were once violent, you’ll always remain violent. Such stigma, risk of recidivism and lazy stereotyping will need to be intellectually challenged, ideologically countered and intelligently dismissed via multi-pronged early intervention.

This is true for adults as it is for children. Empirical research conducted in Pakistan concerning children involved in Taliban activities illustrated that these children attained impressive academic credentials. They were offered specialized vocational training to align skill-sets with the job market. They were also re-educated religiously since the Islam these children had studied was completely corrupted.

There was ample aftercare, where communities embraced the kids and brought them back into the social fold. This approach proved effective, and several kids hitherto involved with the Taliban became normal children again. So happy endings are not a distant mirage, they require consistent, concerted and focused effort.

Ostracisation will only push them back over the edge, descending into the deceptive Machiavellian ploys of militant arms. If family members were previously part and parcel of the Taliban, recidivism is alarmingly intensified. This is where the ISIL nexus becomes problematic, as often parents out of their own volition offer their children over to IS, for financial succor and economic dividends. This is especially acute amongst foreign fighters, especially those returning to Germany or  France – states already infested with far-right radical exclusion.

IS Cubs are especially vulnerable to a higher risk of relapse since there is an endless stigma associated with IS. Even those Cubs and widows who do not sympathise with the terrorists, are branded in European cities as miscreants, insidious foreign elements. Such exclusion and ostracization is prone to push former militants back to the brink.

A holistic approach aspiring toward a healing society, especially for those ISIS widows and Cubs that didn’t fight and were unfairly subjugated seems fair -minded. In order to function as a child or widow in that mayhem and madness, often in existential threat, is beyond harsh.

The above is, by no means, a carte blanche, a free license to let anyone scot free, but rather to keep cautiously and closely monitoring returnees, without breathing down their necks in an Orwellian Big Brother manner. Striking that most delicate balance between “law” and “justice”, between “rights” and “responsibilities” remains an urgent undertaking of our generation and those to come.

Concluding Remarks – The Way Forward

This paper amply illustrates that the “smallest” of IS returnees present the “biggest” of problems. More resilient responses will be required by the international community to deal with returning IS child soldiers and women. UN bodies and Jordanian authorities have devised humanitarian provision and programs that target and curtail child soldiering – nurturing a reality that deters and discourages child soldier recruitment.

Factions actively targeting children for recruitment, be they ISIS, Taliban, TTP, ISKP (ISIS South Asia), Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf or any other unsavoury outfits of their ilk, should be immediately identified.

Action to disrupt and prosecute child recruitment needs to intensify and should be a priority for law enforcement, the UN and nongovernmental agencies. Child soldiers “enlisted” but not “conscripted” should be “extracted” through Intelligence Based Operations (IBO`s).

Education, schooling, social reverse engineering will be required to rehabilitate and reintegrate children and women. Otherwise, as is the the case in South Asia, many children often go from soldiering to child labour.

Parallel work will need to be undertaken with families, Commmunity Based Organizations (CBO`s), and local leadership, especially politically affiliated Syrian and Iraqi factions. Monitoring, extraction and IBO initiatives require a multi- stakeholder approach, which implies a deep involvement by the indigenous cultural, traditional, political and religious communities, especially within the refugee populations.

Stealthy IBO, extraction, demobilization and social reengineering campaigns for women and children require enhanced monitoring to empower better targeting and the development of gendered and culturally sensitized programs of engagement and policing. This acts as a catalyst for creating common ground between and among host and recipient countries, the refugee community, humanitarian organizations and returning ISIS fighters.

Improved permanent monitoring mechanisms, education facilities, and reintegration models must be intensified and institutionalized into humanitarian, disaster recovery, anti-terrorism and emergency response efforts.

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References

  1. International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. (2013) Up to 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria; steep rise among western Europeans. Insight. Review also International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (2014.) #GreenBirds: Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks.
  2. Save the Children (2013) Childhood under Fire: The Impact of Two Years of Conflict in Syria. London: Save the Children.
  3. International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. (2013) Up to 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria; steep rise among western Europeans. Insight. Review also International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (2014.) #GreenBirds: Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks.
  4. Brannen, K. (2014) “Children of the Caliphate: the Islamic State is raising an army of child soldiers and the West could be fighting them for generations to ” Foreign Policy, October 27th.
  5. Especially at brick kilns and sweat shops in South Asia.
  6. Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Sub-Working Group in Jordan (2013) “Findings from the inter-agency child protection and gender-based violence assessment in the Za’atari Refugee Camp.” Amman: UNICEF, UNFPA, Save the Children, Un Ponte Per, IRC, UNHCR and UN Women.
  7. Harper, L. (2014) “Syrian women in Jordan at risk of sexual exploitation at refugee camps.” The Guardian, January 24th.
  8. This was proven in: Halaby, J. (2013) “Syria rebels recruit at refugee camp.” Associated Press, November 11th.
  9. Christophersen, M., C. M. Thorleifsson & Å. A. Tiltnes (2013) Ambivalent Hospitality: Coping Strategies and Local Responses to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. Fafo Report no. 2013:48. Oslo: Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies.
  10. Adrian Del Caro (1989) «Dionysian Classicism, or Nietzsche›s Appropriation of an Aesthetic Norm», in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1989), pp. 589–605.
  11. Szent-Györgyi,               Albert          (1972-06-02).         “Dionysians          and Apollonians”. Science. 176 (4038): 966–966.

  12. Kuntz, Katrine (2016) “Islamic State’s Child Soldiers: First Come the Sweets, Then the Beheadings”. SPIEGEL ONLINE. Der Spiegel. 29 July, 2016.
  13. Petrou, M. (2015) “‘Teen girl jihadists’”. Maclean’ 128, 10: pp. 28-30.
  14. Randall, C. (2014) “From Coldplay to Jihad, the Scottish girl who joined ISIL”. The National.
  15. Saul, Heather (2015) “Isis Raqqa wives subjected to ‘brutal’ sexual assaults after marrying militants”. The Independent. 18 Febraury, 2015.
  16. One such example is Sharmeena Begum, a fifteen year old British schoolgirl of Bengali descent from Bethnal Green Academy who left the UK to join IS in 2014. In February 2015, her school friends Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana joined her in Syria proving the potency of `pulling power` when it comes to poisonous propaganda, especially amongst a younger demographic. Ough, Tom; Smith, Hannah Lucinda (2015) «From Loving Rihanna to Loving Jihad – Mohammad Uddin tells how daughter Sharmeena Begum became the first British schoolgirl to join ISIS in Syria». The Times. 14, March, 2015, and Bennhold, Katrin (2015) “‘They were the girls you wanted to be like’: How teenage rebellion sends girls into the arms of ISIL”. National Post, 18 August, 2015.
  17. Philosophically speaking, Anaximander, was unlike other Pre-Socratics, and his ideas are analyzed by Aristotle and Saint Augustine as primal chaos.
  18. Briliantly, Friedrich Nietzsche, in his opus Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, asserts that Anaximander viewed “all coming-to-be events as though they were an illegitimate emancipation from eternal being, a wrong for which destruction is the only penance”.
  19. Honwana, A. (2005) “Innocent and guilty: child-soldiers as interstitial and tactical agents.” In A. Honwana & F. de Boeck, eds. Makers and Breakers: Children and Youth in Postcolonial Africa. Oxford: James Currey.
  20. Bangladesh has especially become a hotbed for radicalization ever since persecuted Rohingya refugees have found sanctuary in Bangladesh and vow revenge over Myanmar`s brutally oppressive military junta.
  21. Tony Blair recently came under a lot of heat due to the Chilcot Inquiry. On 6 July 2016, Sir John Chilcot`s report showed that the reasons for invading Iraq lacked empirical evidence and consistencies. The Chilcot report stated that Saddam Hussein didn`t pose an “urgent” threat to British interests, that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that peaceful alternatives to war had not been duly explored, that the United Kingdom and United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council, that the process of identifying the legal basis was “far from satisfactory”. Consult Cooper, Charlie (7 July 2016). “Tony Blair admits he should have challenged intelligence that led to Iraq War”. The Independent.
  22. The Treason Act 1351 dichotomizes and distinguishes two varieties of treason: high treason and petty treason (or petit treason), the first being disloyalty to the Sovereign, and the second being disloyalty to a subject. For more see The Rights of Persons, According to the Text of Blackstone: Incorporating the Alterations Down to the Present Time, Sir William Blackstone and James Stewart, 1839, pp.76-78.
  23. Ahmed Aboulenein and Peter Graff (2018) Iraqi court sentences Turkish woman to death for joining ISIS, Reuters, February 19, 2018.
  24. The council’s recommendation, in light of Rule 364 of the Jail Manual 1978 concerns the admission of “spectators” to witness an execution. Under the promulgation, the maximum number of spectators allowed to witness an execution is 12. Furthermore, discretion is granted to the superintendent who has the right to deny admission to spectators. Introducing Rule 364 of the Jail Manual into the remit might be misguided and ill-advised. Therefore no such rights have been conferred via Rule 364 for the public to revel in such blood-infused proceedings.
  25. Abdul Majeed Ahmed Aoulakh (1998), Prisons Administration in Pakistan (1998). Dr Aoulakh is a PhD in Criminology,and an Ex-Principal of the Central Jail Staff Training Institute in Lahore.
  26. Accessed from The Pakistan Lawsite at https://www.pakistanlawsite.com/Login/MainPage
  27. Special Courts for Speedy Trials Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), see the Gazette of Pakistan, Extraordinary, 1992-07-22, pp. 439-460 and
  28. Dr Kumail Abbas Rizvi v UOP (2015), Case Number W.P No.34140/2015.
  29. Article 14 of Pakistan`s Constitution further aligns with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  30. Pakistan Law Digest PLD (2010) Federal Shariat Court 191.
  31. Pansota (2018) “Threshold of Confusion”, The News International, February 19, 2018.
  32. Brannan, Kate (2014) “Children of the Caliphate”. Foreign Policy Magazine. 30 November 2014.
  33. Peter Dörrie (2015) How Big Is Boko Haram?, Medium, February 2, 2015.
  34. Child soldiers are notoriously common in Africa. UNICEF reports that 650,000 kids were released from armed conflict over the past ten years, a lot returning to the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo. 17,000 children have been deployed as soldiers in South Sudan since 2013, 600 child fighters have returned to civilian life in Chad.
  35. For an exploration into why this is so: Hughes, I.( 2015) “Why are men more likely to be violent then women?” The Journal.
  36. Freud, Sigmund (1905) On Psychotherapy.
  37. Jung, C.G. (1951). “Phenomenology of the Self” in The Portable Jung. pp. 1-148 and C. G. Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy (London 1993) pp. 1-65.
  38. Consult brilliantly    G.  Jung,  The  Archetypes  and  the  Collective Unconscious (London 1996) pp. 1-285. Especially look up the von Franz, “Process” on pp. 173-175 and C. G. Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious(London 1944) pp. 181–2.
  39. “Wilner, Alex S., and Claire-Jehanne Dubouloz (2010) “Homegrown terrorism and transformative learning: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding radicalization.” Global Change, Peace & Security 22.1 (2010): 33-51.”
  40. Had the racist xenophobe Geert Wilders championed at the ballot box in the Netherlands in 2017 this would not have been the case.
  41. Wood, Paul (2014) “Islamic State: Yazidi women tell of sex-slavery trauma”. BBC News. 22 December, 2014.