ISIS children: ‘Massive threat’ or ‘victims of gruesome upbringing’?
Germany’s domestic intelligence chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, warned that children of ISIS fighters in the country are “living-time-bombs.” He said they could be recruited for terrorist plots. Maassen added that Germany should review laws restricting surveillance of minors under the age of 14.
Moreover, there are also concerns that children returning from Syria and Iraq could be targets for further radicalization. According to government data, about 300 people who left Germany to join ISIS have now returned to the country.
Similar concerns are being voiced in Britain. Commander Dean Haydon of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command has warned this week that “Some terror groups are training children to commit atrocities.”
Haydon told the Evening Standard that “we have no intelligence to suggest children are coming back from conflict zones to commit atrocities in the UK.”
Do children returning from Europe from Syria and Iraq pose a real threat? RT discussed this with Stephen Morris of the English Democrats Party and Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation.
Stephen Morris: I think it is a massive threat. We always have this light little cuddly thing of children, where they can do no wrong. Then obviously when they do some wrong, it’s: “Oh well, we can do this, we can do that to try and help them.” You’ve got bear in mind these are children that have been trained to kill. They are not just running amuck in the street, being anti-social – they have a direct agenda, and that agenda is to kill as many people, as possible. We do have to clamp down on this. If their British parents have gone to join ISIS and then children are born there, the British parents should not be coming back. They should not be allowed back if they have been to fight with ISIS. And the children are not stateless, because if they are born over there, then they will be born in Syria, Iraq, maybe Jordan, or one of the other countries… For us, our priority is to make sure that this country remains safe and that means refusing to allow them back in the country…
RT: Stephen, many of these children have seen and experienced terrible things, maybe even taking part. Should they not be given the opportunity of being rehabilitated, and how can that be accomplished?
SM: We can help them, but we should help them over there. We don’t have to bring them here to look after them. This is where the EU and NATO have really massively failed. They should have set up buffer zones, they should have set up safe zones around Syria, get these children into these areas, look after them, trying to reeducate them. But what you’ve got – the wrong people to bring them over here – let them walk free, while they are being assessed…
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If they are a threat to life, then obviously they’ve got to be monitored. Obviously in the UK anybody below the age of 18 is classed as a child. So you want to be monitoring them. Yes, it is a touchy subject, but parents monitor their children all the time anyway… The problem you’ve got here is, when the parents are the ones who took them to ISIS, you cannot rely on the parents to monitor them. Therefore, you have to have the state do the monitoring. A 14 to 17-year-old can just go around the streets with a knife, they can rob a car just like anybody else. So they are as big a threat as anybody.
RT: Mohammed, these children are clearly the victims of a gruesome upbringing, some have never known any other reality than living under a terrorist organization. Is it not the duty of those who can help them to do so for the benefit of all?
Mohammed Shafiq: I think there are two aspects to that part of the question. The first is: our security services and police are doing a tremendous amount of work to identify who those children are, and what risk those children, or their parents, pose to the UK. It is too early to speculate about the circumstances of these children. These are children – they didn’t make the choice as adults to go and live in Syria. It was their parents, and we should not punish the children for the actions and the crimes of the parents. Now, having returned to the UK, I am hoping that they’ll get sociological help for the trauma that have seen, the terrorism, and oppression that they witnessed whilst living in Syria, that they have gone through the process of deradicalization to see that they aren’t a threat to anybody in this country and this state. And if having been through that due process they are found to have recovered and cleared, then that is a good opportunity to welcome them back in the UK so that they can make a positive contribution to our society. If it turns out that they are involved in extremism and they are involved in terrorism, then we need to do as much work as possible to deradicalize them and to protect them from such an evil ideology.
RT: What is your answer to Stephen, who believes that these children can be a great danger to British society, and the government doesn’t have to bring them back to look after them, as these children should be helped over where they are?
MS: We don’t live in the law of the jungle. We live in a country where we value the rule of law, and where we have people, in this case these children, who have been forced to Syria by their parents. These children haven’t taken that decision, and they are now in no legal state to consent… and to be taken to Syria – they are British citizens, and we as a government, as a society, and as a country have a duty of care towards their children.
As I said, if they’ve been through that process and they are not a threat to our country then I am quite clear in terms of human rights and the universal declaration of human rights – that we should welcome them back and help them rebuild their live. They themselves are victims of ISIS and their crimes.