Between ISIS and Egypt’s Counter-Terrorism Measures: Children are Radicalized, Exploited, and Taken as “Hostages”

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The military coup in Egypt and the subsequent killings and arbitrary arrests of dissidents and civil society members, led by former military general and current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, led to the creation of a suitable environment for extremism in Egypt. The extreme oppression by the new government facilitated the path to radical organizations such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to expand and carry military operations and recruitments to Egypt, leading the Egyptian state to announce a war on terror. Between terrorist attacks, recruitment and exploitation and state counter-terrorism measures, Egypt entered a vicious cycle of violence that is shattering the lives of children.
In the five years following the coup, military operations in Sinai killed more than double the number killed by ISIS.  Security forces began arresting children and subjecting them to a wide range of violations throughout the judicial process. 
Grievances from violations, coupled with the political void, are leaving fertile ground for ISIS and terrorist groups to radicalize and exploit the children, turning them to extremists and loyalists, and even to perpetrators of terrorist operations. The trend of radicalization has become so flagrant that it prompted Dar al-Iftaa to issue a statement calling for the necessity to fight radicalization amongst Egyptian youth. 
This paper examines the changes in ideology and behaviors of child prisoners, their exploitation by terrorist groups, effective hostage-taking, and, ultimately, the victimhood by both the State and terrorist groups. 
The research is based on testimonies of former detainees, interviews with the detainees’ lawyers and parents, and the BCRF databases. The research concludes with recommendations to follow with children in detention facilities that would decrease the risk of child radicalization and hence support the state in the fight against terrorism.

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