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Iraqi cleric claims 'brainwashed children' cannot be de-radicalised

Iraqi children living in towns and cities under Daesh's control "have been brainwashed" and Iraqi clerics have no way of religiously rehabilitating them, a senior pro-government Sunni cleric claimed yesterday.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Khalid Al-Mulla said that Iraqi children have been exposed to Daesh's ideology for far too long and that "we now have no way of de-radicalising them."

Suggesting that the reason why religious leaders will fail at de-radicalising Iraqi children was due to poor resourcing, Al-Mulla called upon "the United Nations and all international organisations to support the Iraqi authorities."

While Daesh has been known to propagate its own educational syllabus as well as running training camps for children under the banner of "Cubs of the Caliphate", Al-Mulla failed to identify where or when he spoke to any Iraqi children from recently recaptured areas.

The Iraqi cleric also made remarks claiming that de-radicalisation efforts should "mirror what we have seen in the military sphere [against Daesh]".

Abandoning Iraq's youth

Al-Mulla's comments have been understood by some prominent Iraqis as being a call for a more militant de-radicalisation effort that may actually create further radicalisation.

"What Khalid Al-Mulla seems to have neglected is that the biggest radicalising factor in Iraq over the past 13 years has been the failure of the political system", Anas Altikriti, CEO of the Cordoba Foundation in London, told MEMO.

Altikriti blasted Al-Mulla for his seeming capitulation by stating that his use of the term "brainwashed" meant that he had "relinquished any responsibility towards thousands upon thousands of youngsters who would turn away from violence should another option emerge."

Describing Daesh as an ideology rather than a cult, Altikriti suggested that the only way for the terrorist organisation to be truly defeated was for it to be "overwhelmed ideologically", an aspect of counter-terrorism that Altikriti believed Al-Mulla had not only neglected but "readily declared defeat" on.

"Tens of thousands of Iraq's youth are certainly not beyond saving," Altikriti said, adding, "Iraq's youngsters were never inclined towards violence in the past, which implies that this phenomenon is associated with events that have taken place since [Iraq was invaded in] 2003."

Altikriti concluded by calling on Iraq's political elites to be held responsible: "It would be…callous to relieve the failed political system and political players since 2003 from their substantial share of the responsibility in creating the conditions which made…violence and terrorism attractive to some."

Daesh gained control over many Sunni Arab majority urban areas in 2014, including Tikrit, Falluja, Ramadi and Mosul, which is one of Iraq's largest and most important cities. However, Daesh have steadily been losing ground since 2015 and are now likely to lose their hold on Mosul, their last major urban holding.

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