- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 15, 2019

Kurds in northeastern Syria are using art therapy in an attempt to reform thousands of ISIS fighters captured on the battlefield.

Prisoners in the Qamishli facility are being encouraged to realize their inner Pablo Picasso while sitting in air-conditioned cells and televisions broadcasting Arabic soap operas.

Khaled Barjas Ali, a senior judge in the terrorism courts of the region, said the approach — inmates also make papier-mâché models of birds, flowers and trees — will work.

“If I sentence a man to death, I am spreading hate,” the judge said, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. “We want to give people reasons to trust us. If you take revenge, people will be radicalized. But with reconciliation, we are sure we can finish the problem.”

The measures are also an attempt by Kurds to convince the international community to recognize the region as a sovereign state, added Letta Tayler, senior researcher of Terrorism/Counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch, based in New York.

Roughly 1,500 cases have been tried in the last three years, although another 4,000 are awaiting trials for crimes that include killings and bomb-making.

“It is our philosophy to give them a chance to start a new life,” a prison official said. “Maybe a man made a mistake and he joined [ISIS], but maybe he’s a victim of his circumstances and he’s repentant.”

Hassan Hassan, director of the Non-state Actors in Fragile Environments program at the Washington-based Center for Global Policy, said the approach is not without its critics.

“Some people complain it’s a process that will backfire, that you have too many former ISIS fighters who are sitting with their families back home and you don’t know if they are just waiting to be reactivated,” Mr. Hassan, who is from Syria, told the newspaper.

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