Thousands of ISIS children, many of them abandoned, are innocent victims of the brutal rise and destructive fall of ISIS. The stain they carry points to how thoroughly Iraq's social fabric was torn apart by the militants' nearly three-year-rule over much of the country's north and west.
When ISIS took over those territories in a 2014 blitz, it massacred Shiite Muslims, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, Sunni Muslim fighters and members of the police or military who fell into its hands. And it drove out others, often either destroying or giving away their homes, according to the Associated Press.
Now that ISIS has been driven out of almost all its territory, many of its victims want vengeance.
A senior police officer in the northern province of Nineveh said he knew of at least 100 homes in and around the city of Mosul that have been demolished by tribesmen angry over ISIS members living there. ISIS-linked families have been shot at and had grenades thrown at their homes, he said. Members of the Yazidi religious minority — whom the militants singled out for some of their worst brutalities, massacres of the men and enslavement of the women — have retaliated by destroying homes in Arab villages in their heartland in the Singar area, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with his agency's regulations.
Thousands of Iraqis are in prison over suspected ISIS ties and an unknown number of ISIS members were killed in the war. That leaves potentially tens of thousands of children without male heads of households and often without female ones.The stigma against the children is powerful.
Even extended families in some cases refuse to take in abandoned children of ISIS members, said a relief official with an international agency that has worked to find homes for such children. The relatives may worry about being tainted themselves or come under pressure from their tribes not to accept the kids, she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk about the agency's work.
Most children of Iraqi ISIS members live mingled among the hundreds of thousands still languishing in camps for those displaced by the three years of fighting that brought down IS. More than 1,000 live with incarcerated mothers in overcrowded jails or juvenile detention facilities.
A few dozen are in orphanages. One, in Baghdad, houses the children of foreign jihadis who came from abroad to join the IS and are now dead or imprisoned.
Police have set up checkpoints on all streets leading to it. There has already been at least one foiled attempt to attack the orphanage.
The children at the center of this resentment are often profoundly traumatized, whether from their lives with ISIS or from the war itself.