Dutch spy services unravel 'myth' of life with ISIS

A child speaks in a propaganda video from ISIS.
A child speaks in a propaganda video from ISIS.PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch secret services fear as many as 70 Dutch children may be growing up among Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, warning in a bleak new report about life under such a "totalitarian" regime.

"Life among ISIS, unravelling the myth" was released late on Tuesday (Jan 12) by the intelligence services, the AIVD, in a bid to spell out to families, police and aid workers the true hardships and dangers facing those who travel to Iraq and Syria.

It paints a stark picture of life under a regime where "violence is inherent", new male recruits to ISIS are interrogated for days to ensure they are not spies, and children are routinely taken to watch executions of those sentenced to death by harsh syariah courts.

Thousands of foreign fighters from Western Europe as well as Gulf countries have been attracted to ISIS ranks in the past two years wanting to support its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria and beyond.

Among them are more than 200 Dutch nationals, including about 50 women.

Of the 70 Dutch children now feared to be living among the militant, a third were born in either Iraq or Syria, while the rest had been taken there by their parents, the report said.

Propaganda put out by ISIS "paints an idyllic life in the 'caliphate', which is just not consistent with the reality", the Dutch services said in a statement.

"Intelligence research shows conditions are truly deplorable."

From the moment new recruits arrive in an ISIS hub such as its stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria, men and women are separated.

Women, who from the age of nine have to be veiled, have one main function within ISIS - to have as many children as quickly as possible, the report said.

Single women are kept together in a house and only allowed out once a week until they are married off.

Children go to school from the age of six, where they are taught English and Arabic but also given lessons in "the ISIS doctrine and the correct interpretation and implementation of jihad".

"Life for children in ISIS areas is associated with death and destruction," the report says, describing their daily experiences as "hard and traumatising".

Many ISIS-held towns are under constant air strikes by the United States-led coalition, and children may have to deal with the death of their parents, risk getting injured and are regularly exposed to gruesome scenes.

A spokesman for the AIVD would not reveal how the information in the 16-page report was obtained, saying only "intelligence gathering is our business".

But Ms Inge Oevering told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday it was primarily aimed at professionals and relatives, to understand what foreign fighters and their families are going through.

While the secret services would "hope to dissuade" people from leaving the Netherlands to join ISIS, "we are not under the impression that they would listen to us".