Iraq News

ISIL children: a generation with no official identity

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

Syrian children reenact scenes from ISIL videos they have seen in the Damascus suburb of Douma in March, 2015. Experts are expressing concern about the fate of the children born to the group's fighters. [Abd Doumany/AFP]

Syrian children reenact scenes from ISIL videos they have seen in the Damascus suburb of Douma in March, 2015. Experts are expressing concern about the fate of the children born to the group's fighters. [Abd Doumany/AFP]

The presence of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has had disastrous consequences for children in the areas it controls, with the emergence of a new generation who have no identification papers.

With no evidence of their nationality, date of birth or even their existence, these children are destined to face difficulties in daily life and in the communities that take them in, experts told Diyaruna.

"The issue of the children who were born, or will be born to a father or mother who fights with ISIL will create a real problem in the future, and will have a negative impact on the future of Syria," said Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam, who resides in Cairo.

"These children, whatever the nationality of their parents, are not registered with any Arab or foreign government agency, and thus lack official verification documents," he told Diyaruna.

"In the eyes of the law, they do not exist at all," he added.

"When the ISIL problem ends, the Syrian crisis file is resolved and things return to normal, even to a minimum level, they will be considered children with unknown parentage, or in government terminology, ‘unregistered’ or ‘bidoun’," al-Bassam said.

According to Syrian law, the registration of newborns requires a legal marriage contract issued by a legitimate government agency, the Syrian lawyer explained.

"So, the registration of a child born to a father or mother who is an ISIL fighter is legally impossible, since the marriage contract is essentially issued by an illegal party," he said.

Further, he said, marriage contracts issued in areas under ISIL control are undocumented, "and therefore it is impossible to prove the legality of the marriage".

The consequences of such cases have already emerged in areas under ISIL control, in al-Raqa in particular, where children born to ISIL fighters are termed ‘bidoun’, said Mahmoud al-Amin, a retired teacher and al-Raqa resident.

"Many Syrian girls were forced to marry ISIL fighters , and number in the hundreds in al-Raqa province alone," he told Diyaruna. "The women and their families face the problem of proving the parentage of the children, as their marriages were conducted unofficially by an ISIL cleric."

"Moreover, obtaining a birth certificate from the physician who delivered the child is impossible, because ISIL dictates that children be delivered by a midwife," he said.

A time-bomb for society

The issue of children born to ISIL is one of the "worst social disasters that Syrian society will face", said Cairo University sociology professor Basma Husni.

State agencies will eventually need to place these children in specialised institutions in order to evaluate their psychological state and ascertain whether or not they pose a danger to society, she said.

"This will have an impact on the children with unknown parentage themselves as they will harbor a sense of injustice," she added.

This will destroy their self-esteem and engender in them "intense resentment towards their parents and society", which could lead to severe behavioral disorders, she said.

Their lack of identification documents also will preclude their access to education, health and social services, from marriage, medical services and employment to the exercise of their rights, such as the right to vote, Hosni said.

"All ISIL wants is to produce a new generation of fighters who are wholly loyal to it, and this explains its promotion of marriage and enticement of young men to marry and bear children," said military analyst and al-Qaeda affairs specialist Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Ahmed, who is retired from the Egyptian army.

Ahmed said this would ensure a ready supply of children to the training camps ISIL has established , such as "al-Zarqawi Cubs" in the Damascus Ghouta area, and is designed to build a future force for the group.

This problem needs to be addressed as soon as possible, he said, before it is too late.

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