Iraq News

Youth overturn ISIS ideology in Mosul schools

By Khalid al-Taie


Students from Mosul wave the Iraqi flags during a school programme designed to protect them from the deviant ideology spread by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Photo courtesy of Dunya Ammar]

Teams of youth activists have been visiting schools in liberated parts of Mosul to conduct counter-extremism workshops for children and teenagers who might have been negatively influenced by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Al-Faf Organisation for Development and Reconstruction, which is overseeing the programme, has trained dozens of young people to become local leaders in their communities by spreading a culture of moderation.

Among them is Mosul activist Dunya Ammar, who said she took part in several training programmes before being selected for community awareness tasks.

"We started the courses two months ago, and we chose to work at schools because they included the age groups most affected by confusion and intellectual misinformation," Ammar told Diyaruna.

"We adopted an integrated educational curriculum that focuses on tackling extremist and deviant ideas and on developing the values of peace, co-existence and patriotism," she said.

Students are addressed at the level appropriate to their age, she added.

"With middle and high school students, we would talk and discuss things in order to see the change and the positive results immediately," she said.

Many younger students suffered from psychological trauma as they had witnessed executions or seen bodies in the streets, in real life or through ISIS propaganda materials, she said.

Lingering psychological trauma

The teams paid special attention to the younger students, Ammar said, offering them fun, recreational activities such as painting, music and games to encourage good work and collective co-operation.

To fully rid Mosul of the psychological and intellectual legacy of ISIS, she said, work must be conducted on a larger scale and extend to all segments of society.

"People are still under the influence of shock and fear," she said. "We have to reassure them and encourage them to return to their normal lives and close the chapter on the era of terrorism forever."

Al-Faf began its programme to inoculate children against extremism after east Mosul was liberated and the security situation began to stabilise.

The Ministry of Education has been open to incorporating these ideals into school curricula, Mohannad al-Omari of al-Faf told Diyaruna.

The organisation trained nine teams of 50 young men and women from Mosul to lead the programme, which so far has reached 300 reopened schools in the city's eastern neighbourhoods, he said.

"The intellectual inoculation programme motivates children and young people in particular to reject the hard-line and unjust ideology that terrorists have tried to market to them and adopt moderate ideas," he told Diyaruna.

Building a brighter future

"We want to provide an environment that helps them focus on building their own future and becoming active members in building and developing their communities," al-Omari said.

"Currently, each inoculation programme extends for about one week and then the assigned team moves to another school," he said.

"As part of our future plans, these courses will be held at mosques to expand the target groups, and will move to the neighbourhoods on the west side of Mosul after they are fully retaken from the grip of ISIS," al-Omari said.

Other al-Faf activities include a programme which teaches first aid to school students and offers them psychological support, he said, noting that 120 male and female graduates received certificates from the International Medical Corps.

"There are great volunteer efforts by the young people of Mosul to serve their people and rebuild their city," Mosul district council head Basma Basim told Diyaruna.

"One of the most important things they are doing now is fighting the ideology of ISIS and cleansing the minds of children and young people," she said.

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