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The Lived Experiences of Children in the Al-Hol Camp: Systemic Deprivation, Trauma, and Ideological Indoctrination

Esther Brito

/ Analysis

Along the expanses of Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria, refugee camps have become seemingly permanent enclosures. Structures holding thousands of women, children, displaced people, and Islamic State (IS) militants alike are maintained in a state of physical and social limbo — held as sites of containment, regardless of the parameters of such capture. Among these encampments, perhaps the most well-known is the Al-Hol camp — a place where life has been defined as a “purgatory-like existence”. While the camp was created in 1991 to accommodate refugees displaced by the first Gulf War,1 its continued operation has now seen those affected by the actions of the Califate reside within its limits. Given the fear of repatriating radicalized individuals and the denial of return conditions for those displaced in the camp, many of its residents have become formally stateless. Limited negotiations or punctual returns to countries of origin have not marked a divergence from the pattern of existence in the camps, where there is little hope or expectation of abandoning the enclosure. Among those existing in this state of pervasive uncertainty, children remain the most vulnerable to deprivation, violence, and indoctrination.

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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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