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Opinion and Editorial

Where do children of Daesh terrorists belong?

Christiane Waked (Regional Mix)
Filed on January 21, 2020 | Last updated on January 21, 2020 at 01.43 pm

The United Nations is urging an immediate repatriation of these children and has rightly pointed out that this is not an issue of repatriation but a humanitarian one.

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, stipulated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

It means every child regardless of his parents' good or bad deeds, religion, race or social background is entitled to a decent life that protects his rights to have a healthy, safe, and a happy childhood.

Nevertheless, the European and the Western countries seem to ignore that first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it concerns the fate of the children of Daesh members. The extremist group was long been defeated and pushed away from Syria's Baghouz, but their children have been left behind. Thousands of them are languishing in camps for displaced people in northeast Syria. They are on the fringes of society, isolated of basic rights to health, education, and economic security. They have nowhere to go. Their governments have turned their back on them and refuse to repatriate them.

France is a fierce advocate of human rights, and yet the French government isn't ready to take back 200-300 children who remain homeless and stranded in Syria and Iraq. They live in filthy conditions, with no hope of a better future. It's appalling how countries can be selective when it comes to value systems and the rights of people. The children living in Syrian camps are innocent; their only crime is they were born to extremist parents.

The United Nations is urging an immediate repatriation of these children and has rightly pointed out that this is not an issue of repatriation but a humanitarian one. Even the most difficult conundrum should be treated in an ethical way.

In these cases, empathy must be a political practice. After all, these kids are stigmatised for the choices their parents made. And they should not be made to pay for their parents' faults. These governments tend to forget that these are simply kids and they are also victims as they have witnessed a horrible war. Many of them are physically injured and most of them suffer from emotional trauma.

Clear extradition agreements should be drawn out with extra provisions for the orphaned and the wounded including social workers. The necessary paper work must be provided to orphans, who may lack official documents. These children are vulnerable subjects and their situation puts them at a great risk of exploitation, abuse, and forced marriages. The governments should find ways and means to help these kids. They have a right to live a normal life and their countries have an obligation to provide environments that are conducive to their wellbeing.

However, there are many children who were born elsewhere but have spent a majority of their time in Syria and also fought alongside the extremists. Such cases must be dealt with individually. There could be many that still harbor Daesh ideas. Such youngsters must be 're-educated' and only after that should they be allowed to integrate into societies based on peace, democracy, and equality.

Countries should start developing strategies on how to tackle the return of the extremists' offspring instead of running away from their responsabilities. A great example to follow in that regard is the one of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country made the fight against terrorism a key feature of its policies. It has set up centres to tackle the problem and wipe out radicalism from the roots. KSA has introduced a new approach called PRAC (Prevention, Rehabilitation and Aftercare) to prevent the risks of radicalisation among youth, while de-radicalising extremist detainees, and reintegrating them into the society.

The bottom line is that governments must take responsibility to rehabilitate the young children. The West often brags about its humanitarian and democratic credentials. Now is the time for them to prove that they believe in these values.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

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