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The ISIS Files: Understanding how ISIS indoctrinated children

The ISIS files prove that freeing children from the scourge of terrorism is not only a question of fighting terror but also, and foremost, a question of protecting their human rights

Cristina Gallach Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain

Education offers an important space to counter violent extremism. Hedayah’s international expertise in education addresses local push and pull factors leading to radicalization and recruitment.

Thousands of files abandoned by ISIS were uncovered in 11 cities as their strongholds were overtaken. The documents, now called “The ISIS Files,” constitute the largest collection of original files from Daesh that is held by any non-governmental entity.  In order to extract knowledge on the indoctrination process that Daesh has used with respect to children, Hedayah and the George Washington University Program on Extremism undertook a research partnership to evaluate documents of the terrorist group.  We analyzed almost 70 primary-source documents by Daesh in relation to children’s education.

The files show that Daesh systematically indoctrinated children to believe their identity was under attack by ‘the other.’ Children were cut off from formal education systems and exposed to Daesh’s perilous interpretation of education, which promoted violence and division.

Hedayah recommends several actions from ISIS Files, including that children exposed to mental and physical trauma under Daesh now require specialised rehabilitation and reintegration. To reverse the indoctrination process, urgent support should include reintegration into education systems that provide specialist assistance to children on positive self-identification and social cohering. This is necessary for the protection of children, which is a human right, and to end a dangerous cycle of violent extremism.

The recommendations report was conducted in partnership with the European Institute for Counterterrorism and Conflict Prevention (EICTP) and funded by the Government of Spain.

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