What It's Like to Interview Children Who Have Been Recruited by ISIS

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Media Outlet: Washington Post

Souad Mekhennet was interviewed by the Washington Post about her interviews with a boy who had been indoctrinated by the Islamic State:

You’ve previously interviewed members and leaders of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. Now you’ve come face-to-face with a boy who had been recruited by the Islamic State. What is it like interviewing a child as opposed to an adult?
It’s different to interview a child, and I have some experience with that from reporting in war zones, refugee camps and also when I worked on a children’s book some years ago. Taim is a boy who in one moment describes to you how he loves being in Europe, how he loves playing with his toys. He would smile and laugh. Sometimes, as soon as we discussed his life in Syria or mentioned ISIS, his facial expression would change, he would stop smiling and cover his eyes, and say he didn’t want to remember what he has seen in Syria. And then there were other moments when he described with pride some of the lessons he learned from his ISIS teachers about what was right and what was wrong. He had some knowledge about arms and military.
He seemed in some turmoil. He is now in a country which his teachers had told him was the terrible home of “unbelievers,” but he actually liked it and was adapting to the change. But he never entirely escapes his memories. He once asked me why there were ISIS fighters from all these different countries, including the United States and Europe, who came to his country, took away the homes of people and began to spread violence and fear. “Why did these countries allow them to come to us?” he asked at one point.

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Souad Mekhennet is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. She is a correspondent for the Washington Post.