Conflict Positives? Rehabilitation and Reintegration for IS soldiers

An Islamic State group fighter loads a mortar shell during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Ramadi. Sputnik news (2014).

An Islamic State group fighter loads a mortar shell during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Ramadi. Sputnik news (2014).

“Denmark has started to offer educational and sport related anti-radicalization rehab programs to the former or possible Islamic fanatics, a break from other countries who simply jail or torture suspected terrorists.” (Sputnik, 2014)

In lieu of the negativity and critiques surrounding education in conflict, strides towards positive action are being taken. Often, efforts to combat extremism (and conflict in general) are met with the element of dehumanization of the enemy in strategies for intervention. This tactic is used to rationalize violence and perpetuate the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. Aside from the direct physical detriment invoked by this process, the damage caused to those distancing themselves from conflict can also be immense. The current conflict dominating the media, ISIL, is framed as one of the most terrifying threats to the stability of the Middle East and Western national interests. This leaves viewers, readers, listeners with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. However, not much is being discussed about points of intervention from a humanist perspective.

Rehabilitation and reintegration programs around the world have been created in the hopes of resolving the negative impacts of trauma and re-socializing militants outside of a conflict context. These programs, specifically for child soldiers recruited into militant groups, only gained recognition in the late 1990’s in response to conflicts disseminating out of sub-Saharan Africa (most notably, in Uganda and DRC). Still, the concept of rehabilitation and reintegration is new to the conflicts of the Middle East. The program highlighted in Denmark for the use of education and sports to guide the psychological healing of returning militants from the Islamic State, illustrates the benefits that can come from socio-emotional education. Though this form of intervention does not solve the issue of the widespread human rights violations and radical violence being used by the Islamic State (ISIL), alternate interventions can be used to treat the collateral damage. The human side of conflict becomes hidden and replaced with the political motivations and ideologies of stakeholders, limiting potential for other effective interventions. This especially becomes problematic when considering the children inducted into militia groups. Those who are coerced into extremism, whether directly or through external pressures, should not be neglected. There is a large amount of potential found in these rehabilitation and reintegration projects to mitigate the impact of trauma and promote healthier development. It is necessary to humanize those who are impacted by these groups in order to provide a peaceful and effective intervention for their progress.

Sputniknews. (2014). Denmark Rehabilitates Jihadi Radicals With Education, Sports. Sputnik News. Retrieved on December 4 from
Wikipedia. (2014). Lords Resistance Army (LRA). Wikipedia. Retrieved on December 4 from
Wikipedia. (2014). March 23 Movement (M23). Wikipedia. Retrieved on December 4 from
Young, A. (2007). Preventing, Demobilizing, Rehabilitating, and Reintegrating Child Soldiers in African Conflicts. The Journal of International Policy Solutions. PP 20-23. Retrieved on December 4 from

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