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  • Writer's pictureChuka Nwanazia

Former IS Brides Want to Come Back Home ... What Next?

Shamima Begum - Former Syrian IS bride seeking to go back home to the UK

Lately, we have seen a few cases of former ISIS brides wanting to come back home. The most popular case was that of Miss Shamima Begum. Begum left for Syria in 2015 at the age of fifteen to join the Islamic State terrorist organization. She recently stated her desire to return to the United Kingdom, but the British authorities have withdrawn her citizenship. The case has received a lot of attention in the British media as well as here in the Netherlands. Some UK citizens have praised the British authorities for withdrawing her citizenship and have called on the governments of other EU countries to do the same with the IS brides wanting to come home.

Earlier on, US President Trump had threatened (via Twitter) to release imprisoned IS fighters/brides in Syria if they are not taken in by different EU countries. The threat has so far been rebuked by Dutch politicians. D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma thinks the threats is highly inappropriate. "The Netherlands was one of the few NATO countries willing to deploy F-16s in the fight against ISIS, so these threats are not appropriate at all," he said.

The Dutch government is still considering bringing back Dutch ISIS brides to the Netherlands. By doing this, it hopes to prevent them from walking free and somehow secretly returning to the Netherlands to lead normal lives and not face justice for their crimes. The repatriation of former ISIS brides has been met with a lot of resistance from majority of the populace. The discussion has been two-sided: on one hand, people sympathise with the children of these ISIS brides who can not be morally held responsible for the bad choices their parents have made. On the other hand, the parents are now experiencing the consequences of their decision to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. Lots of Dutch citizens feel that it would not be a bad thing if the Dutch government only brought back the innocent children from Syria and left their parents there, as Belgium is trying to do right now. There are also people who feel that the parents should be allowed to come back to the Netherlands and be tried in a court of law - just like every other "Dutch citizens" who has broken the law. Some Dutch folks do not agree with this way of thinking as it could pose a security threat to the country. Many feel that these "former" ISIS brides could be working together with the so-called Islamic State in planning and/or carrying out attacks in different parts of the world.

A number of men and women who have been stuck with their children for more than a year in Syrian detention camps have started a procedure to force the Netherlands to cooperate and let them return. The Netherlands will have to decide in the short term whether it is prepared to take back these Dutch IS fighters/brides and try them here. Trump's threatening tweet has also had an effect. Until he made that threat, the cabinet was opposed to letting former ISIS brides or fighters back into the country. The line was drawn at: citizens who join the Islamic State shouldn't bother coming back to the Netherlands. Minister Grapperhaus of the Justice Department has claimed that something could be done about female ISIS brides and their children, although concrete repatriation plans have not yet been made.

The Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) could have an important role to play when it comes to bringing these ISIS brides home to face justice. They would have to work together with Child Protection Services and if necessary, their children could be taken away by force. While some women had given birth while with ISIS , others dragged their children to the war zone and tried indoctrinating them in genocidal ideology. These children are victims of their parents' wrong and harmful choices and must be separated from them.

For the time being, it remains a particularly sensitive issue for the Dutch government and for many other countries: what to do with these surviving jihadists who are mostly women with children. Right now, a lot of them are trapped in Kurdish refugee camps in Syria. They aren't welcome anywhere, not even in their country of origin, because they are regarded as an acute threat to national security. Will the Netherlands take the UK's example and strip these former IS brides of their citizenship or bring them back home to face justice in the courts of law?

Time will tell ...

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

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