Project OMAR is a proposal to conduct research of theological narratives within the Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) of al-Hol, Syria. The research findings will be used in order to develop a Theological Safeguarding intervention which seeks to protect children and vulnerable persons from militant Islamist narratives.
Project OMAR is named after a 14-year-old Syrian boy who refused to fight for Da’esh. As a result of his refusal, Da’esh severed his limbs in a display of public chastisement. This project is named after Omar, in recognition of his courage and bravery.
Approximately 1.2m Syrians are currently living in IDP camps across Syria (UNHCR: 2019). The UNHCR (2019) report that millions of children in Syria have been deprived of education due to the conflict. Despite support from the international community approximately 50% of school aged children are currently not in school nor receiving any form of education (UNHCR: 2019). Furthermore, children fathered by Da’esh fighters carry an enormous social stigma (Trew: 2018). They are regarded by local communities as ‘unholy devil spawn’ and are socially outcast living in displacement camps on the outskirts of cities (Ensor: 2018). This ‘reality’ is set against a backdrop where IDP camps have limited and facilities partially due to the impoverishment caused by Da’esh’s militancy. As a result children fathered by ISIS fighters are considered irrelevant and undeserving of support.
Da’esh had an operational vision to spread their ‘jihad’ in to Europe. They have repeatedly stated across their volumes of Dabiq that if they are unable to achieve this goal then their children and grandchildren will do so (Dabiq, 2014, vol.4, pp 05.) In preparation for this they have used children in extra judicial killings (Atwan, 2015, pp 153), indoctrinated them with their ideology through ‘formalised’ modes of education (ISIS schools) (Cowburn: 2016; D’Agata: 2017) and forcibly exposed them to footage of their killings and militancy at dedicated media points (Trew: 2018). They have exposed millions of children to a social norm of intrepid violence. This construct is part of Da’esh’s wider strategy to ensure the longevity of their ‘jihad’ and militancy. Whether that reaches in to Europe is irrelevant at this stage; Da’esh have engineered an environment in which future militancy can thrive.
This assessment is shared by others; the UNHCR states that due to vulnerabilities across IDP camps child recruitment in to militant conflict is still a major concern (UNHCR: 2019). Similarly the Telegraph reports that children across Syria and Iraq who have been orphaned as a result of the conflict are vulnerable for future radicalisation (Ensor: 2019).The UNHCR states that children in IDP camps are psychologically scarred as a result of the conflict (UNHCR: 2019). Assessments of children in rehabilitative facilities suggest that they also experience difficulties in navigating their faith. For example, young children have been reported to still sing Da’esh’s ‘religious’ songs praising the ‘Islamic State’ whilst older children have refused to participate in activities such as football and crafts considering them to be forbidden (Ensor: 2018). A theological safeguarding programme is therefore critical in order to undo this damage and kerb threat of theologically justified militancy. INGO’s are providing essential psychological and emotional trauma support for children and young persons’. However unless these are supported by theological rehabilitative and safeguarding interventions they will only offer a partial solution. The toxicity of Da’esh’s militant narratives needs to be neutralised for the well-being of children and young persons’ currently in IDP camps and the future security of the region.
At present there is no dedicated programme which focuses on this area. Neither is there any credible research upon which a theological safeguarding intervention can be proposed.
So it is therefore necessary to conduct this research in order to gather vital data that can lead to the development of a Theological Safeguarding programme.
We are seeking sponsorship in order to commission the research. A concept note of the proposed research is available for prospective research partners.
For further information regarding Project OMAR or to find out how you can support it please Contact Us.