Many of them were barely school age when their parents took them to the Islamic State group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Thousands of others were born there.
The children of the group’s followers are the most vulnerable of the Islamic State’s human leftovers — the remainders of the more than 40,000 foreign fighters and their families who came from 80 countries to help build the caliphate. Many are now detained in camps and prisons across eastern Syria, Iraq and Libya.
“What have these kids done?” said Fabrizio Carboni, a Red Cross official, after witnessing the misery surrounding him on a recent visit to Al Hol camp in Syria. “Nothing.”
Yet even when it comes to the children, the foreign governments whose citizens are marooned in the camps and prisons have struggled with what to do with them.
The Islamic State group, researchers say, employed children as scouts, spies, cooks and bomb-planters, and sometimes as fighters and suicide bombers. Propaganda videos showed young children beheading and shooting prisoners.
Some have had years of ISIS indoctrination and, in the case of older boys, military training.
“They’re victims of the situation because they went against their will,” said Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re not, in some cases at least, a risk.”
If figuring out what to do with the children is that complicated, deciding what to do with the women and men is even more difficult.
There are at least 13,000 foreign ISIS followers being held in Syria, including 12,000 women and children. That number does not include the estimated 31,000 Iraqi women and children detained there. Another 1,400 are detained in Iraq.
But only a handful of countries — including Russia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and France — have intervened to bring back some of their citizens.
The debate is more pressing than ever.
In overflowing camps in eastern Syria, the wives and children of ISIS fighters who fled the last shreds of ISIS territory are dying of exposure, malnutrition and sickness. Children are too spent to speak. Women who have renounced the group live in dread of attacks from those who have not.
The local militias running the camps say they cannot detain other countries’ citizens forever.
Across the border in Iraq, government authorities are administering hasty justice to people accused of being Islamic State members, sentencing hundreds to death in trials that often last no longer than five minutes.
But most foreign governments are reluctant to take them back, leaving them international pariahs wanted by no one — not their home countries, not their jailers.
伊斯蘭國的滅亡留下許多棘手問題，如何處置遭俘虜或戰死的聖戰士的妻小為其中之一，文中以leftovers形容這群殘留者。此字的單數形式除了可當名詞外主要當形容詞「殘留的」使用，須放在修飾的名詞前面，如leftover pizza。若表示「殘湯剩飯」通常用複數：Give the leftovers to the dog.
倒數第三段的spent是「極度疲憊的」，同段片語live/be in dread of代表「持續擔心害怕」：She lives in dread of (=is continuously very afraid of) the disease returning.