Over 25,000 Iraqis (90 percent of which are women and children) currently reside in al-Hol camp in Northeastern Syria, and the government of Iraq has started to return some of these families back to Iraq via a rehabilitation and reintegration programme. This population is perceived to have an ISIS affiliation, along with thousands of other persons across Iraq. But what exactly does having an ‘ISIS affiliation’ mean practically for children from these families, and what are the implications of it for their rehabilitation and reintegration?
Building off a gap in the literature around children with perceived affiliation to terrorist groups, this article utilises Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model to help distinguish the current challenges faced by children from ISIS-affiliated families in Iraq. It considers the implications of familial affiliation in areas including family life, education, camp and detention settings, media coverage, returning to their communities, and legal aspects. It also considers which of these features are shared with ISIS-affiliated children outside of Iraq.
The aim of this article is to create a stronger shared baseline for understanding the unique features of such children, by considering how their healthy development may be negatively or positively impacted on multiple levels when their family is affiliated with a terror group. In turn, this understanding can better shape and target the interventions or support they may receive in response to these.