Psychosocial Needs of Former ISIS Child Soldiers in Northern Iraq (I)

funded by the Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the regional programme "Psychosocial Support for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees and IDPs"

Principal Investigator IPU

Prof. Dr. Dr. Phil C. Langer

Project Description

In 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained global prominence by conquering and controlling major regions in Iraq and Syria. For its “mission”, the terror organization abused thousands of children as “child soldiers” in combats and combat-related support roles. Three different groups can be identified, defined by different pathways and subsequent processes of ISIS socialization, tasks and experiences as well as corresponding frames of perceiving and feeling and making sense of the experiences within ISIS and afterwards: Arab Sunni children, Yezdi children, and children of foreign fighters. In the research project, we focused on male children of the first two groups.

From August 2018 to June 2019 the research project aimed at answering the following interrelated questions: What are the psychosocial needs of former ISIS child soldiers in Northern Iraq? How are former ISIS child soldiers perceived by their social environment and how does this affect their current situation? Which services for them are already in place in the region and what approaches seem to be helpful? Which additional services should be provided to gain and sustain a meaningful state of mental integrity, social agency, and societal integration of the children?

To answer these questions, we developed a multi-methodological approach, by combining: a systematic review of existing research literature; explorative fieldwork in the region, accompanied by formal and informal interviews with regional and international experts; an actor and service mapping of organizations and projects working with former ISIS child soldiers in the region; collaborative storytelling with former ISIS-affiliated children in different settings. In addition, we participated in a joint effort to create spaces for exchanging experiences for organizations that work for and with former child soldiers and allowing for a critical discussion of our observations and interpretations.

Based on the data collected, we are currently investigating the health-related impacts of collaborative storytelling as a method of trauma-sensitive psychosocial approaches and are working on the group-related processes of recruitment and ideologization as well as the social participation opportunities of these children.

Original language: English

Participating Researchers

Aisha-Nusrat Ahmad (IPU Berlin)
Shereen Abdelnabi (IPU Berlin)
Khesraw Majidi (IPU Berlin)


Project Start: 01/2018
Project End: 01/2019