Juvie For Jihadists: Inside Iraq’s Teen Reform Center

Feb 15, 2017 at 5:44 PM ET

A detention center in northern Iraq is trying to get radicalized teens to choose life over ISIS. Kurdish authorities are holding 54 Iraqi teens that either willfully joined the terrorist organization or were coerced into doing so.

Located in the city of Dohuk, the center contains literature and art meant to reeducate youth that have been schooled in jihadist ideologies. “My uncle and cousin pressured me to join and they threatened to give those people my whereabouts and said, ‘We will let them kill you,’ and that is the reason I joined them [ISIS]” 17-year-old Laith Abbas said.

ISIS is well known for the brutal recruiting tactics for their youngest members. Militants associated with the group have allegedly abducted, raped, and executed young boys and girls, and they have recruited teenagers to be soldiers, bodyguards, spies, and suicide bombers. Further, the group has in the past released videos showcasing their “newest generation of fighters and suicide bombers.”

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Other detainees also told Kurdish officials that they did not willingly join the Islamic State, though these reports have yet to be confirmed. All 54 of the teenagers will go to court and have their fate decided for them.

“I would like to go back and study and support by family,” Rajeb, another detainee at the center, said. “But I am now held here and I don’t know if there will be a court ruling.”