from Women Around the World and Women and Foreign Policy Program

The ISIS Bride Problem: Don't Take It Out on the Children

Foreign ISIS wives still in Syria live in dust-coated tents, or sometimes in prison rooms, alongside their children, inhabiting a legal purgatory until one authority or another figures out what to do with them.
Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL in the northern Iraq city of Mosul.
Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. REUTERS

Navigating the line between innocence and complicity, between knowing and ignorance, between willing agent and unwitting victim - that is the work of those charged with figuring out what responsibility ISIS wives from overseas bear as the rule of the terrorist group winds down. What is certain: these women witnessed a brutal hell of inhumanity from a front-row seat. Stayed until the end of the so-called "caliphate." They bore and raised children amid hangings, beheadings and the enslavement of other human beings. Saw rape and murder and brutality organized, scaled and viciously and effectively tailored to inflict extreme suffering on a great many. And now, for those women still in Syria, they live in dust-coated tents, or sometimes in prison rooms, alongside their children, inhabiting a legal purgatory until one authority or another figures out what to do with them.

Whether these wives, these widows, are complicit in the barbarism they lived amid is an open question. What is certain is that their children bear no responsibility. And should not suffer for the sins either of their fathers OR their mothers. These children must not become pariahs. They must be reintegrated into the home countries from which their mothers came. The children cannot suffer the sins of their parents. Or we will all suffer as a next generation endures injustice it did not create - and perhaps seeks justice itself later on.

More on:

Women and Women's Rights

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Iraq

Islamic State

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More on:

Women and Women's Rights

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Iraq

Islamic State