Enter the terms you wish to search for. Teenagers stand inside a prison cell at the Reformatory for Women and Children in Dohuk, northern Iraq, February 12, 2017. Nasim, who was 13 at the time, didn’t like affiliation report curriculum ISIS imposed in his school, so he dropped out and started working with his father, selling groceries.
Mosul, so he and his brother went to Erbil, in the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, looking for work. Nasim said neither he nor any members of his family had been part of ISIS. After Nasim’s arrest, he said Asayish officers interrogated and threatened him. They told me that if I didn’t confess to joining ISIS, that they would send me to the Hashad and they would kill me. I agreed to admit that I had been with ISIS for 15 days. They said that wasn’t enough, so I said 30 days.
After a week, he was taken to an investigative judge, who asked if his confession was correct. I was afraid if I didn’t, they would torture me. When Human Rights Watch interviewed Nasim, now 17, in November of 2018, he was in detention, awaiting trial on charges of terrorism. I miss my family a lot. I think about them every day, every second.
Based on information from multiple sources Human Rights Watch estimates that at the end of 2018, Iraqi and KRG authorities were detaining approximately 1,500 children for alleged ISIS affiliation. International law prohibits any recruitment or use of children by non-state armed groups. According to international standards, children who are recruited in violation of this principle are primarily victims who should be provided with assistance for their rehabilitation and reintegration. In Iraq, however, children with any association with ISIS are treated as criminals.
Security officers often torture them to coerce confessions—regardless of their actual involvement—and courts in the KRG and federal Iraqi territory prosecute and sentence them to prison as terrorists. Iraq and the KRG have pursued justice for ISIS crimes by conducting thousands of trials of ISIS suspects, including children, often solely on the charge of ISIS membership, with no regard for the extent of the defendants’ actual involvement or whether they committed any violent crimes. The consequences of these punitive policies are profound, creating long-term stigma, family separation, displacement, and severely limiting youths’ ability to reintegrate into society and support themselves. Once branded as ISIS, these children fear revenge attacks if they return home after their release from detention. Children who have been arrested and detained by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq risk re-arrest by Iraqi forces if they return to areas falling under Baghdad’s control.