Sunday, July 30, 2017

Terrorism as a Family Affair – 250 Tajik Children Now in Syria and Iraq with Parents Fighting for ISIS

Paul Goble

          Staunton, July 30 – The standard image of the ISIS recruit is of a young man or more rarely a young woman who has left family behind and gone off to fight in Syria or Iraq for the caliphate. But that image needs to be modified: in the case of ISIS fighters from Tajikistan, 252 of the 840 Tajiks in ISIS ranks are children there with their families.

            According to a report presented by Dushanbe to the United Nation that is described today by the Tajik Service of Radio Liberty, there are currently 240 Tajik families in Syria and Iraq, totally 840 people in all. That number includes 309 men, 279 women, 110 girls and 142 boys (

            Over the last 30 months, the Tajikistan report says, 19 families have returned from the fighting. Among them were 21 girls and 20 boys.  Earlier this year, the Tajik Service says, Radzhabmo Badriddinova, children’s ombudsman for that country, said that “dozens” of Tajik families had gone to fight for ISIS but that the authorities had little information about them.

            Tajikistan law has not caught up with this phenomenon: There are no special rules governing the handling of children swept up in this process. But now Dushanbe is thinking about what should be done to correct that given the numbers involved. One step already taken is the government’s decision to amnesty all who return to Tajikistan voluntarily.

            This report is significant for at least three reasons: First, it suggests that ISIS recruitment abroad is now targeting not just young adults but whole families, something that may make it easier for the Islamists to attract people to its cause not only in Tajikistan but quite possibly in other Muslim countries as well.

            Second, the presence of such children among ISIS forces raises the disturbing possibility that Islamist commanders may sacrifice them in order to win propaganda victories by suggesting that the opponents of the Islamic State are killing innocent women and children. Any such claims, especially if supported by pictures, are likely to go viral.

            And third, the recruitment of entire families also means that if these people do return to their homelands, their impact on the situation there is likely to be measured not in a few years but over decades because at least some of the children who are taken by their parents to Syria and Iraq will become radicalized and ready to act when they grow older.

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