RETURN OF THE CHILDREN OF THE JIHAD (working title)
Director(s): Dorothée LEPINE, Seamus HALEY – Writer(s): Dorothée LEPINE, Edith BOUVIER Contact Print page
As fighting rages in Iraq and Syria to recapture the territories occupied by the so-called Islamic state, one question is on everyone’s mind: What will happen to foreign fighters and their families: their wives and particularly their children? Regardless of whether they are minors, who were brought to the land of the "caliphate" by relatives from abroad, or whether they were born there… These children will be a concern for the entire international community, starting with France and Europe, who are closest to the territory ...
Referred to as the "caliphate’s babies", they were born in recent years in the territories controlled by ISIS, in Syria and in Iraq. We do not know how many they are: hundreds, perhaps thousands. France estimates, for their part, more than 500. Two thirds are these children and adolescents who left France with their parents; the others were born on ISIS territory and are therefore less than four years old. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the majority of children born in there have no nationality, no identity papers. They were registered by the terrorist group and has thus no legal value.
Who will take care of these children if their parents are killed in combat? What to do with these children, enlisted against their will? Do our Western democracies have the structures and means to get them back, help them recover? Will we put them into orphanages and homes? And what about children who have committed violent crimes, assassinations?
Whether the terrorist organisation is eradicated militarily or not in the coming months, ISIS has already prepared its future generation of combatants. Nikita Malik has been working on a report by the Quilliam Foundation (a British think tank against extremism): "ISIS’ use of children as a means of propaganda is unprecedented in history on such a scale. Their role is not only to ensure the daily needs of the Caliphate, but also to spread jihadist ideology, infiltrate society so deeply and so permanently that its disciples will live and exist among us even if the territories are lost."
How many children of ISIS are there in France, in Europe and can we recover them? The phenomenon is new and it surprised everyone. We are not prepared for it. As experts say, we do not yet have enough of a perspective to support any concrete theses. One thing is certain though, it will take a generation to overcome a phenomenon that is not restricted to a particular country and that requires solutions that cannot focus on just punitive measures.