Homeland Security

Not the Onion: U.S. Allies Using Art Therapy to Fight ISIS in Syria

(Image: stux via Pixabay)

Why not? Nothing else has worked. In what will either prove to be a quirky bold move or a colossal failure, Syrian Kurds — who are allies of the United States — are hoping that a kinder, gentler approach to dealing with captured ISIS fighters will help “prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State.”


At a closely guarded prison in this northeastern Syrian town, former Islamic State fighters make papier-mâché models of birds, flowers and trees while serving sentences that typically run two or three years.

I told you it was quirky.

They aren’t just winging it, there’s a hopeful plan in place:

Across the border in Iraq, Islamic State detainees are being held in degrading conditions, subjected to torture and often, when brought to trial, given long sentences or the death penalty, according to human rights groups.

The Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States are attempting a different approach. Their goal, Kurdish officials say, is to rehabilitate and reintegrate many of the Islamic State fighters in their custody, in hopes of deterring a revival of the militant movement.

The Syrian Kurds’ leftist ideology precludes the death penalty, and their few functioning courts issue light sentences for fighters not found to have committed major crimes. Hundreds more militants have simply been freed in deals with local Arab tribes whose cooperation the Kurds need to maintain.

One can’t read even a paragraph or two about the conflict in Syria without immediately realizing what a thoroughly complicated mess it is. Nothing ever seems to change for the better there and what the Kurds are doing here is hoping that a radical new approach can finally move things in a different direction.

While the idea may have merit, it may also never be properly tested:

It is an imperfect effort that is patchily enforced, inexpertly applied and acutely under-resourced.

Counterterrorism expert Colin Clarke admits that it’s all kind of a crapshoot anyway:

“We still don’t have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. We don’t have a large body of evidence to look back upon.”

It is a very long article that delves into the myriad questions and problems regarding the conflict. The more one reads, the more it becomes obvious that anything is worth a try.

Art therapy it is then.

For now.


Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.”