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Children Affected by the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon: Guidelines on Managing the Humanitarian and Security Dimensions in Northeast Syria

Cecilia Polizzi

/ Policy

The 2023 Children Affected by the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon (CAFF) Series aims to provide insight and advice for states, professionals, practitioners, and other relevant stakeholders. The CAFF expounds the trajectory of child involvement with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in relation to the foreign fighter phenomenon and the life cycle of the present scenario, offering solutions across sectors and disciplines and tackling the full range of issues it exerts. It encompasses key themes such as online safety, the crisis in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in northeast Syria, repatriation, reintegration, and rehabilitation, and offers four sets of guidelines.


This line of effort by the CRTG Working Group proposes comprehensive, integrated, and multi-faceted approaches to progress towards sustainable and meaningful solutions to the prolonged child protection and security crisis stemming from the issue of foreign fighters. Central to CAFF is ensuring that human rights, the rule of law, and children’s rights remain at the forefront throughout the development and implementation of interventions and programs.

These syntheses of accumulated experience and expertise on selected themes provide comprehensive, detailed, and nuanced overviews of their subject matter. The first technical session addressing the online ecosystem of terrorism and violent extremism, culminated in the Guidelines on the Prevention of Radicalization on Social Media and the Internet in this Digital Era.1 The present Guidelines reflect the progression of this line of thematic work undertaken by the CRTG Working Group focusing on the detained, refugee, and displaced child population currently residing in two internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee camps in northeastern Syria: al-Hol and Roj. It is the result of CRTG Working Group specialized knowledge and draws from a CRTG Working Group-led technical session with Dr. Elie Abouaoun, Country Director Libya at the International Rescue Committee, and Mr. Zuhrab Saadi, Director of DAN for Relief and Development, a nongovernmental organization delivering humanitarian assistance across multiple sectors in northeast Syria. The CRTG Working Group ́s technical session sought to expose the complexities of the humanitarian and security dimensions in the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees al-Hol and Roj camps in northeast Syria. It addressed the potential impact of ISIS child recruitment and radicalization efforts, children ́s vulnerabilities and protection needs, and highlighted critical challenges hampering the return of children to their home communities and countries of origin.


This report should be of interest to governments, United Nations partners, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), along with the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who are focused on providing support to children in al-Hol and Roj. The recommendations that follow include both potential avenues to improve humanitarian and security conditions for children, address legal and judicial challenges, mitigate child exploitation and radicalization risks, as well as steps to support successful repatriation of displaced populations and long-term security in the region.

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Shaping Futures

@2023 CRTG Working Group

New York City

Working Group on Children Recruited 

by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups Corp. 

EIN 30:1232924

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