Australia Is Bringing Children of ISIS Home. Is It Ready?


“What they wanted to do was really raise the next generation of ISIS fighters,” said Dr. Koehler, who has worked with both Islamist and far-right extremists in Europe and the United States. “They’ve been socialized with a completely different understanding of right and wrong, and good and evil,” he added. That has often made child returnees “the most difficult” cases to manage, he said.

Some research into deradicalization has suggested that young children either born or brought into ISIS territory should be primarily viewed as victims, while a more complex approach might be required for children who were old enough to fully understand or engage with the militants’ ideology.

In parts of Europe, specialized programs and handbooks have been developed to help experts navigate this new landscape. In Australia, however, where interventions have largely been prison-based, focused on adults, or centered on weeding out online terrorist propaganda, such assistance is lacking, Dr. Koehler and other experts said.

“We don’t have any programs,” said Ali Kadri, the spokesman for the Islamic Council of Queensland, who said he helped reintegrate two women who were deported back to Australia after attempting to join ISIS in 2015.

The Australian minister for home affairs did not respond to requests for comment, and deradicalization and trauma programs contacted by The New York Times said that working with children in this situation was not their area of expertise.

Some members of the Islamic community and mental health professionals said it would be wrong to assume that the children were radicalized or posed a threat. Australia, they noted, has extensive experience resettling individuals from war-torn countries.

And the Sharrouf children, and other young returnees from ISIS territory — three children of the Islamic State fighter Yasin Rizvic were removed from the Syrian camp with the Sharroufs on Sunday — should not be treated as an exception, they said.

Source : Nytimes