QAMISHLI, Syria — Sitting on a classroom chair, his fingers drumming nervously on a tablet, a young boy slowly raises his head to reveal a pair of pale green eyes, high cheekbones and a chiseled jaw.
“I want to become a doctor,” he said. He probably never will. Salih, 15, is among hundreds of boys at the Orkesh rehabilitation center near the town of Qamishli in Kurdish-led northeast Syria. They are the sons of tens of thousands of foreign fighters and their wives who joined the Islamic State (IS) from across the globe. Unwanted by their home countries, roughly 23,000 foreign children of both sexes are condemned to a life of perpetual limbo, internment and misery. When they reach puberty, the boys are prised apart from their mothers, who are held in the notorious al-Hol and Roj camps, on the grounds that they are vulnerable to indoctrination, prone to violence and used as “sexual tools.”
Salih, who is from the Balkans, was forced into sex with older IS women, according to a pair of camp administrators who identified themselves as Bawer and Alan. Salih was brought to the center three months ago from al-Hol. “He told his teacher that he was being used by the IS women for sex, to impregnate them, and his teacher told us,” Bawer said in a recent interview at Orkesh. “I can assure you he is not the only one.”
Go forth and multiply