A report by the Danish intelligence agency has led the government to change its mind and agree to repatriate the so-called “Islamic State wives” – Europeans, mostly teenagers, who during the last decades have been co-opted to join the terrorist group, often under false pretenses, promises of good living conditions.
After the dismantling of the jihadist organization, many were held in refugee camps in Syria and called on their countries of origin to take them back. Unlike the comeback, Denmark’s Social Democratic government caved in after its intelligence service pointed out risks of radicalization that could become more serious in the future, if the children received terrorist training.
Aid organizations have warned of overcrowding and poor conditions in the Kurdish-ruled Roj and al-Hol camps in northern and northeastern Syria, and reports of an attempt of escape multiply. According to the report, more than half of the 19 children of Danish “IS wives” are in their early teens, an age group considered vulnerable to extremist indoctrination.
In March, media reported that the Kurds were losing control of the al-Hol camp, which is home to more than 64,000 people. In Roj, there are around 2,000 refugees.
After the decision was announced, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the measure does not make her happy: “These people have turned their backs on Denmark. They are terrorists. But the situation in the camps has worsened and we are forced to take this decision, even for the security of the country ”.
According to the Home Office (responsible for security), it is better to promote a “controlled return” than to take the risk that the families flee and return to Denmark on their own, where they could enter freely, because they are Danish. citizens.
The Foreign Ministry said three citizen mothers and their 14 children, aged 1 to 14, will be repatriated. The fate of five other children, daughters of three naturalized Danish women, but stripped of their nationality when they left for Syria, remains to be seen.
The government does not intend to collect them and the mothers oppose the return of their only children, which makes the trip impractical both by the rules of the local Kurdish authorities and by international conventions and Danish law. -even.
Upon their return, the “IS brides” face three to five years in prison. “They have to face the consequences of their actions and we will try to stop them as soon as they set foot on Danish soil,” Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said. The children will follow de-radicalization programs.
The discussion of the fate of widows or wives of Islamic fighters is taking place in several other European countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Finland.
This year, a 30-year-old Norwegian woman who married three different ISIS operatives between 2013 and 2019 in Syria was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison after being repatriated from al-Hol camp.
In the United Kingdom, the British Supreme Court in February rejected the return request of Shamima Begum, a former British citizen who fled at the age of 15 to enter the Islamic State.
At the end of last year, the German and Finnish governments said they had repatriated 18 children and five women from refugee camps. A Brussels court also ordered the Belgian government to help repatriate 10 children born in Syria, daughters of Belgians who fought for the Islamic State.
In early March, Belgium announced that it would try to bring in around 30 children from refugee camps and some of their mothers.