In Syria, many families face a terrible dilemma

Hassan Hassan writes: Aside from the military situation, special consideration must be given to how the targeting of ISIL’s financial routes is affecting local attitudes towards the group. In recent months I have noticed a trend of some families sending at least one of their children to join ISIL because that was the only way for them to generate an income in the family. This is especially the case among displaced families, although not limited to them.

A family of eight, for example, left the city of Deir Ezzor due to shelling and bombardment and lived in an ISIL-controlled town in the countryside. The family’s breadwinner could not find a job to sustain his family of four daughters and two sons, including one disabled son. Eventually the father sent one of his sons to join ISIL which paid a monthly salary of $400 (Dh1,469). The son was since displaced to fight for the group in Hasakah.

Another case is of a family from Hatla, near Deir Ezzor, who were displaced to a town called Subaykhan. The family’s breadwinner, their 21-year-old son, joined ISIL to support a family of five. The man, who has only visited his family once since he joined the group five months ago, was sent to fight in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

Such situations are widespread and are a direct result of the air campaign. Many of those families would not have allowed their children to join ISIL. Suspicion towards the group was common before the campaign and many families had successfully persuaded their children to leave the extremists behind. In such cases, ISIL would allow the member to choose whether he wanted to return to his family instead of fighting for it.

Officials involved in the international coalition recognise the negative financial effect of the campaign and the lack of an alternative to the poor people living under ISIL. Many even hope that the worsening situation would lead people to rise up against the group or cooperate with foreign countries fighting it. But that is an absurd thought disproved by overwhelming examples of people getting closer to the organisation – out of need more than anything else – because of the air strikes. [Continue reading…]

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