DERADICALIZING AND DISENGAGING THE CHILDREN OF THE ISLAMIC STATE
Rasmussen, Maria J.
Ostovar, Afshon P.
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Thousands of ISIS fighters and supporters, over 4,000 children being among them, were displaced after the Islamic State’s proclaimed caliphate collapsed in 2019. While some countries have been either ambivalent or completely against repatriating ISIS children, other countries have planned to accept them back. This leads to several questions: are current deradicalization and disengagement programs applicable to the children of ISIS? Would these programs help to reintegrate children back into society? Are different approaches needed? To better answer these questions, the research in this thesis extracts key themes present in current deradicalization and disengagement programs and compares those themes with the factors motivating children to join terrorist organizations. Through qualitative analysis, this thesis finds that current programs are largely prison-based and place heavy emphasis on addressing radical ideologies and providing social aid. Unfortunately, these programs are not suited for child reintegration and are unprepared to handle the unique cognitive and social aspects of adolescents. Therefore, this thesis recommends that current deradicalization and disengagement programs replace strategies that address ideology and provide untailored social aid with programs that address positive peer contacts, foster constructive social networking, and provide psychological counseling and guidance, so that the children of ISIS can be successfully reintegrated back into society.
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