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Children Brutalized by Islamic State (IS) will need Urgent Help, say Experts

As stated by the SITE counter terrorism website, these children, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek

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A screenshot from an Islamic State propaganda video that purports to show young boys executing Kurdish fighters. Image source: VOA
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August 27, 2016: Islamic State extremists almost as a badge of honour, posted this chilling image of five children staring into the camera with guns in their upraised arms, about to execute, the other five grown men dressed in orange jumpsuits kneel in front of them.

This image was released on Friday, and featured in an IS video from Ragga, Syria. As stated by the SITE counter-terrorism website, the young boys, in this image, were British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek.

With a profound level of psychological warfare, IS, a deeply disturbing sign of the extremist group’s, has increasingly featured children in its constant barrage of propaganda.

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Though the German magazine Der Spiegel quoted saying about 1,500 boys were serving the militant group in Iraq and Syria, but the exact number of children who have been put through the Islamic State’s child soldier boot camp is unknown.

One of the experts VOA talked with suspects there are that many in Iraq alone.

As the Iraqi Security Forces, with Kurdish troops and U.S.-led coalition support, converge on the IS stronghold of Mosul, there are growing concerns about what will happen to the children who have been forced to live under IS.

“There is no way we are prepared to manage the scale of what we see in front of us,” John Horgan, a professor at Georgia State University and an expert on terrorism and political violence, told VOA. “We are looking at a level of [child] mobilization that is unprecedented and increasing.”

Image source : VOA
Islamic State supporters. Image source : VOA

Snipers and suicide bombers

According to Farah Dakhlallah, UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa spokeswoman, child recruitment has increased across the Middle East, and the roles that children are recruited into are changing.

“In previous years, children were in support roles,” Dakhlallah told VOA by phone from Jordan. “But in the past two years, they are taking on much more active roles, carrying weapons, manning checkpoints, being used as snipers and as suicide bombers.”

In Syria, children are increasingly being used in armed and combat roles by different parties to the conflict, at times recruited as young as seven years old, Dakhlallah said.

“Often we think this is happening without parental consent,” she said. But there may be instances where the parents have been complicit, further complicating the psychological picture.

“I’ve been studying terrorism for 20 years; I have seen nothing like this,” Horgan said. “This is altogether different.”

Unprepared

While organizations like UNICEF provide a level of psychosocial services to children who have escaped the conflict, experts warn that some children may have been severely brutalized.

“I don’t think we have a real understanding of what these kids have been through,” Horgan told VOA. “We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

IS has been grooming, training and indoctrinating children for several years and has also widened its recruitment approach to include children, encouraging entire families to join IS.

Children who have escaped have described the horror they have been through.

“Some children were sexually assaulted as part of their training. Some were beaten by sticks. They slept on flea-ridden mattresses and were beaten and bullied if they faltered even for a second,” Horgan said.

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“IS executed children who showed signs of disillusionment or of missing their parent,” he added.

“These children did not emerge out of the ether in the last couple of months,” Horgan said. “[IS militants] have been grooming and indoctrinating kids for a few years now. I think it’s an investment in their future.”

UNICEF efforts

In Iraq, UNICEF says it is working with the Iraqi government to improve juvenile detention centers and programs for children in detention, including those on security-related charges.

The U.N. agency is also advocating for training front-line security forces on child rights.

But Amnesty International has criticized Iraq’s judiciary structure as weak and opaque, and security officials as barely coping with the flood of people fleeing IS control. Hundreds of males have already disappeared from unofficial security screening points.

Asked whether the humanitarian agencies were prepared for the wave of children who will be emerging from Mosul as security operations ramp up to retake the IS stronghold, Horgan had only one word to say: “No.” (VOA)

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Why Does Trump Separate Families, A Policy Or A Law?

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018.
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration at least since April has been separating children and parents who enter the United States illegally at the border — that much is supported by the numbers. But much of everything else surrounding the practice has become mired in confusion.

Here is what we know:

In recent weeks, news stories of children in detention centers have circulated more widely, and the numbers of detained children have grown.

Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that between April 19 and May 31 of this year, nearly 2,000 (1,995) children were separated from their parents or other adults with whom they were traveling.

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children, but many worry that this video, the only video that has been released from within one of the detention centers, may not accurately depict them.

A policy or a law?

As criticism over the separation of parents and children at the border grows, the Trump administration has struggled to explain the policy.

Trump, himself, said the practice is the result of a law passed by Democrats, which has forced his administration into separating parents and children.

But there is no such law.

Rather in May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which means that those detained entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged. This approach generally leads to children being separated from their parents because the law requires it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018, VOA

On Sunday, senior policy adviser to the Trump administration Stephen Miller told The New York Times that the crackdown “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry. Period.”

Administration officials, including Miller and Sessions, have defended the separation of families, saying that having children does not exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you. … If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions told a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

The administration has said the new practice is directed at combating a “surge” of unlawful border crossings. But the “surge” appears to be numbers marking a return-to-normal after a dip last year.

Not a new idea

Though the practice of treating all people who cross the border unlawfully as subject to criminal prosecution is new under the Trump administration, it is built on existing policies from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amid a surge of unlawful migration from Central America to the United States in 2014, the Obama administration considered many plans to deter illegal border crossings, including separating parents and children. Ultimately, Obama decided against separations but did expand the detention of immigrant families. New facilities were opened along the border, which held women and children for long periods of time before their cases were processed.

Following widespread criticism after photos of detained women and children, accompanied by testimonies of people being held for extended periods, a federal judge in Washington effectively ruled that asylum-seeking mothers could not be held for longer than 20 days, leading to what has been called a “catch and release” system where adults were released with GPS ankle monitors tracking their movements until their cases could be heard in court.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs' Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.
=U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018. VOAU.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.VOA

But this “catch and release” system has been heavily criticized by Trump and his administration.

Also read: Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

“This get out of jail free card for families and groups who pose as families has spread,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress. I’m sad to say that from October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop,” she said. (VOA)