WASHINGTON,March 14, 2017:Advancing Iraqi forces in western Mosul have captured a textile factory that Islamic State (IS) used to as a jail to hold women, officials inside the city told VOA.
“The Islamic State imprisoned nearly 300 women in the building,” Gayath Surchi, the speaker of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in Mosul told VOA.
The textile factory is located between al-Mansour and Wadi al-Hajar neighborhoods in western Mosul and came under the Iraqi control Sunday night, according to Surchi.
Mines slow rescue
Another Kurdish official in Mosul, Said Mamozini, told VOA that the factory was besieged by Iraqi forces last week but IS mines planted around the building prevented them from further advancing.
“There are heavy clashes with IS fighters in nearby neighborhoods until now,” Mamozini told VOA.
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The officials said the identity of the rescued women remained unclear pending an investigation. But officials believe many of the women belong to the Yazidi religious minority sect. IS kidnapped many Yazidi women in 2014 and enslaved them.
Women will be taken to refugee camps
Surchi said the women will be transferred to refugee camps in northern Mosul where they will be identified and reunited with their families.
“The women are under the Iraqi forces’ protection but haven’t been evacuated yet because of IS snipers and bombing,” he said
“Their ages vary between 20-year-old to 70-years-old and some of them speak Kurdish,” Surchi said. “This makes me expect those women to be our Yazidi mothers and daughters.”
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IS attacked Sinjar, the ancestral capital for more than 200,000 Yazidis in August 2014, killing roughly 5,000 of its male residents and enslaving thousands of women and children. The women were reportedly used as sex slaves, while the children are taught IS ideology.
According to the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Directorate of Yazidi Affairs, roughly 2,500 Yazidi women and children are still under IS control in Syria and Iraq. (VOA)
Syria, August 19, 2017: As U.S.-backed forces continue to make slow progress in their offensive to oust Islamic State (IS) from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, thousands of civilians who are trapped in the city face an increasing danger of getting caught in a crossfire, rights organizations and local activists warn.
Officials from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say their battle against IS has entered a fierce and grueling phase in the densely populated neighborhoods of the city, as the terrorist group tries various tactics to keep its stronghold.
“This fight has become a matter of life and death for both sides,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for the SDF, told VOA.
Bali said IS militants are increasingly using suicide car bombs, snipers, drones and tunnels to hinder SDF advances.
“But what distinguishes the operation for Raqqa from all other cities is the degree to which IS thugs use civilians as human shields,” he said.
He added that IS has forced civilians to remain in their homes so coalition forces avoid airstrikes in those areas.
Despite IS tactics, the SDF was able to advance slightly from the southeast of the city, Bali said. As the forces marched forward, SDF’s special units rescued nearly 250 civilians early Thursday.
Claims of civilians killed in airstrikes
Meanwhile, rights organizations and activists continue to express concerns about the rising death tolls among civilians in the besieged city.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said an escalated shelling of Raqqa by the U.S.-led coalition warplanes since Monday has left nearly 60 residents dead, including 30 children and women.
The group said it expects the death toll to rise as recovery units continue to find missing bodies under the rubble.
Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, told reporters on Wednesday that coalition jets have conducted more than 200 airstrikes against IS positions in Raqqa this week alone. He did not directly comment on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ findings.
Speaking with reporters during a phone briefing from Baghdad, Dillon talked about the stiff resistance the SDF forces are facing from about 2,500 IS fighters who still hold about 45 percent of the city.
He added that the jihadist group has centralized much of its operations and many of its fighters in densely populated areas and high-rise buildings, including the city’s main hospital, in an effort to slow down the ongoing siege.
“They have fortified the complex, created tunnels for access, and are hiding among women and children who have nowhere else to go,” Dillon said.
The United Nations estimates there are still nearly 25,000 civilians trapped inside the city. The agency has called upon the U.S.-led coalition and the SDF to increase their efforts to open safe corridors for the remaining civilians to flee.
“The worst place probably today in Syria is the part of Raqqa that is still held by the so-called Islamic state,” Jan Egeland, the U.N.’s humanitarian adviser for Syria, told reporters on Thursday.
Hussam Eesa, a founder of the anti-IS monitoring group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, told VOA that many residents who escape airstrikes and IS snipers fall victim to the landmines planted by IS.
Eesa said about 350,000 residents have managed to escape the city, making it to nearby towns and villages under SDF control. But he said they continue to suffer from lack of basic services.
“The SDF areas are safer off course,” Eesa said. “But there is a lack of aid and increased restriction on civilian movement in refugee camps.” (VOA)
Steeped in a culture of martyrdom, the threat posed by the cubs — both to themselves, as well as others — is worrying de-radicalization experts
Experts point to the successes achieved by clinical psychologist Feriha Peracha, who has been overseeing a project partly funded by the Pakistani Army
The Islamic State has enlisted thousands of youngsters, some as young as four years old
July 09, 2017: They are known as the cubs of the Caliphate, youngsters enlisted by the Islamic State, which views them as “the generation that will conquer Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome.”
The West and the Middle East communities from which they have been recruited see them as a grim threat, the deadly legacy of a murderous caliphate on the brink of military defeat.
As the terror group’s territory shrinks in the face of offensives on IS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the militants have highlighted in a series of chilling videos in recent months what they hope will be in store for their enemies. The militants are counting on the revenge of the lion cubs, the child soldiers they have been enlisting in northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq, and grooming determinedly since Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself the emir of all Muslims in June 2014.
Steeped in a culture of martyrdom, the threat posed by the cubs — both to themselves, as well as others — is worrying de-radicalization experts, who fear Western governments are not giving enough thought about what to do with them.
Western governments are the most likely to come up with the resources, analysts say, needed to rehabilitate IS’s cubs. There is little in the works, though, being planned to shape or establish rehabilitation programs, according to rights groups and charities working to reintegrate child soldiers in other conflict zones.
They say that when they raise the issue of the cubs, they are battling a prevalent attitude among Western officials that these child soldiers are different from those in other conflicts and maybe beyond rehabilitation.
“It would be a terrible mistake to think that because someone was a cub for a year or two, they are lost forever – they can be saved and rehabilitated,” says Mia Bloom, a Canadian academic, who is co-authoring a book on jihadist child soldiers.
“Not only have Western governments not started to calculate what would be involved in a successful rehabilitation program, they don’t even want to consider that the four-year-old is not culpable,” she argued. Of the cubs who are the sons and daughters of foreign fighters, Western governments often are trying to slam the door on them. “In many cases they have canceled the passports, revoked citizenship,” said Bloom.
“What we are seeing with many of the Western governments is a complete rejection of the children because they fear they could be potentially members of sleeper cells or time-bombs waiting to explode,” she said.
Bloom worries that will be a self-fulfilling prophesy, if programs aren’t established quickly to start the long and expensive process to reintegrate them, which she insists is possible.
Experts point to the successes achieved by clinical psychologist Feriha Peracha, who has been overseeing a project partly funded by the Pakistani Army to de-radicalize and rehabilitate young Pakistani militants recruited by the Taliban.
When Peracha first got involved in rehabilitation efforts in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in 2009, she was terrified, fearing initially the radicalized youngsters could kill her at any moment. But she quickly began to sympathize with the boys, aged between eight and 16, who she saw were brainwashed, had been taught by rote the Koran in Arabic, and trained to be killers.
Her deprogramming efforts have drawn wide praise since then.
“We have reintegrated 192 without any recidivism,” said Peracha. She said the two most important aspects that have ensured success are maintaining “monitoring up to five years after reintegration, and ensuring alternative life opportunities and goals for the boys.”
Peracha says it can take six months to four years to reintegrate a young militant depending on the factors that pushed them into militancy. Teenagers take longer than pre-teens. Each student costs approximately $200 to $350 per month.
In Syria and Iraq, the challenge is even greater. The Islamic State has enlisted thousands of youngsters, some as young as four years old, in northern Syria and Iraq, indoctrinating them ideologically, and training them as suicide bombers, spies and as executioners.
And there has been no let-up in the effort. In March, the militants’ weekly online magazine, Al-Naba’ highlighted IS’s determination to continue to groom youngsters even in the face of battlefield losses.
If anything, there seems to be a greater urgency in the militants’ recruitment efforts. The high casualties IS has sustained partly explains the continued enlistment of kids.
In a video released last year by IS of the training of recruited pre-teens and teenagers in in Syria’s Al-Khayr province, the narrator concludes ominously, “Even if we are all eradicated and no one survives, these cubs will carry the banner of jihad and will complete the journey.”
Many cubs will survive the offensives currently underway against the terror group – 2,000 suspected cubs currently are in detention in Iraq. Rachel Taylor of Child Soldiers International, a nonprofit based in London, says throwing cubs into detention centers isn’t an answer.
Taylor says that doesn’t mean refraining from punishing those who are guilty of war crimes, but not all of them should be treated as terrorists. “We need to recognize that they are children who have been exploited. Stigmatizing them can be as psychologically damaging, if not more so, than the trauma they underwent as child soldiers,” she added.
“They need education, jobs and a role; you have to offer them stable, productive alternatives to violence, otherwise you will add another cycle of violence,” she warned.
Taylor disputes the idea that somehow the cubs of the caliphate are different from child soldiers in the Congo or Colombia. When it comes to recruitment, the drivers are the same, she argues. “The ideology is secondary – the drivers are lack of security, desire for revenge, desire for a role, the need to find food, shelter and support and to seek material benefits,” she said. The role of parents in recruitment is often crucial, she notes.
That certainly seems the case in Syria and Iraq. According to several studies, and from anecdotal information gathered by VOA from refugees since 2014, youngsters who joined IS were often coerced to do so in different ways, ranging from being cajoled by parents, to kidnappings from orphanages. Some parents were eager for at least one of their children to enlist because of the monthly payments IS paid the families of cubs; but others did so because they agreed with the terror group’s ideology.
The role of families in the recruitment complicates rehabilitation. The standard practice for reintegrating child soldiers is to reunite them with their families as quickly as possible; there are dangers, though, if the parents were complicit in the recruitment. One answer would be to require whole families to go through a rehabilitation program.
“There is not a one-size-fit-all,” cautioned the Canadian academic Bloom. “We are going to need programs that are suited to every level of involvement – from those like the girls, who witnessed violence, to boys who have shot someone or cut off someone’s head or detonated an explosive device,” she said.
Doing that while conflict rages will be impossible, de-radicalization experts say. Trying to do it even post-conflict will be a challenge, especially in wrecked communities, where families will be mourning the deaths of relatives amid an atmosphere of anger and grievance. (VOA)
The Islamic State militant group has been threatening students and insisting that teachers must amend their curriculum
A girl’s high school was among the destruction by IS militants during the past 10 days in the Darzab district
According to provincial education officials, IS militants said an educational curriculum acceptable to Islamic State must be taught in areas that the group controls
Washington, July 4, 2017: The Islamic State militant group has destroyed more than a dozen schools in a restive district of northern Afghanistan, threatening students and insisting that teachers must amend their curriculum, provincial officials said.
Abul Rahman Mahmoodi, the acting governor of northern Jawzjan province, told VOA that a girl’s high school was among the destruction by IS militants during the past 10 days in the Darzab district.
“I wish they had a proper curriculum. Based on our information, [the militants] do not have anything to offer,” Mahmoodi said. “They burned down a female high school entirely and plundered other schools in the area, taking their desks and chairs with them after destroying the infrastructure.”
According to provincial education officials, IS militants said an educational curriculum acceptable to Islamic State must be taught in areas that the group controls.
A local resident who did not want to disclose his name for safety reasons told VOA that IS militants warned girls not to attend school. They make up 40 percent of the 18,000 enrolled students in the district’s 47 government-run schools, which are currently closed for summer holidays.
Abdul Hai Yesheen, Jawzjan province’s education chief, told VOA the IS militants destroyed biology labs inside the schools. Islamic State adherents say they consider study of the human skeleton to be a form of polytheism.
IS and rival militants from the Taliban have clashed fiercely in a fight for control of Darzab, and Baz Mohammad Dawar, acting chief of the district, said 10 Taliban militants were beheaded after they were captured by IS fighters last week.
Islamic State and Taliban fighters streamed into Darzab last month from two directions, and scores of Afghan government forces in the area were under siege until counter-strikes by Afghan and U.S. forces took effect. The center of the district was held by the Taliban, with IS militants controlling areas outside Darzab’s center, but local officials said both groups subsequently were driven out by the combined Afghan and U.S. effort.
Airstrikes kill 7 IS commanders
Airstrikes carried out by U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have killed at least seven IS commanders during the past two weeks, the local officials said.
Two IS commanders who were known as ruthless for the many beheadings they carried out reportedly were killed on Sunday in Darzab. Another five commanders, including the deputy IS leader in the province, were killed last week in neighboring Qoshtaipa district.
IS militants have been most active in eastern parts of Afghanistan until recently, but the extremists have been trying to establish a permanent presence in several of the country’s northern provinces.
Another source in the region who asked not to be identified told VOA that IS has been recruiting unemployed youths between the ages of 13 and 20 to join its forces. The militants are said to have recruited hundreds of fighters from Jawzjan and neighboring Sar-e-Pul province, where several districts are controlled by Islamic State or its affiliated groups.
Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban commander who switched his allegiance to Islamic State a year ago, is said to lead IS-affiliated groups in the region, and is credited with the recruitment of about 500 fighters in his new role. A large number of Central Asian fighters affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan, have joined the IS cause in the northern provinces. (VOA)