Scores of children who became radicalized while living in areas controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria with their families, may pose a serious risk if they return to Indonesia, a terrorism expert has warned.
At least 500 Indonesians are believed to have moved to the war-torn area in the Middle East over the past few years to join Islamic State, with dozens more having been prevented from doing so. Among them are 17 Indonesians, including children, who were deported from Turkey in January.
The government further estimates that about 40 of those who have joined Islamic State have returned home.
“If there are now hundreds of children who have already been influenced by ISIS, they might possibly be members of families like those deported from Turkey,” terrorism expert Sidney Jones said in Jakarta on Saturday (20/05).
“We have to think about the future of these children; their education,” Jones, the director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said on the sidelines of an international discussion on geopolitics.
The country was placed on high alert over terror threats in January last year following a brazen Islamic State-linked attack in Jakarta. A string of other attacks followed, some carried out by Islamic State-inspired teenagers.
The Indonesian government has since stepped up its deradicalization efforts, aside from drawing up tougher anti-terrorism laws.
“The state has to intervene,” Jones said. “These children have to be integrated back into Indonesian society, without holding the radical views, which they have possibly been exposed to.”
“This is also the case with conflict areas like Syria,” she added.
More than six million people, almost 2.5 million of them children, have sought refuge after more than six years of war in Syria, according to Unicef data. Most of the children have not received any education.
“What about the fate of thousands of these Syrian child refugees? There is currently no education whatsoever in the refugee camps,” Jones said. “What will their future look like? Will these children also be affected by radicalism?”