In this photo from March 31, 2019, women speak to guards at the gate that closes the department for foreign families who lived in the so-called Caliphate of the Islamic State in the al-Hol camp in the Syrian province of Hasakeh. Maya Alleruzzo / AP Hide caption
Maya Alleruzzo / AP
Maya Alleruzzo / AP
The 26-year-old Suhayra Aden, a former wife of ISIS fighters, has her two young children in tow decreased opposite the Syrian desert towards Turkey last month, according to news reports.
You wouldn’t get very far.
Turkish border guards arrested Aden, who appeared on a “blue notice” from Interpol, for information about their suspected ISIS activities. according to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. The government did not pursue any charges against her and attempted to deport her and her two children. Radio New Zealand reported.
Aden claimed to be dual citizens of Australia and New Zealand. But Australia revoked her citizenship and canceled her passport. And New Zealand refused to take them.
Now Aden and young children – age 2 and 5, according to Australian ABC News – stuck in Turkey. Your situation has sparked a diplomatic dispute between Australia and New Zealand and highlights a longstanding dilemma of what to do with citizens living under ISIS.
A New Zealand Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told NPR that the government was offering “consular assistance” to Aden while she was in Turkey.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has claimed that responsibility for the repatriation of the woman rests firmly with Australia.
“It is wrong for New Zealand to take responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six, moved to Australia, has her family in Australia and is leaving for Syria from Australia Australian passport ” Said Ardern in February.
If the country denies them entry, it is likely that Aden and her children will become essentially stateless.
Your dilemma is not a unique one. There is Thousands of foreign women who traveled overseas years ago to join ISIS – many of whom are imprisoned in Syria, often with young children. In the meantime, authorities in their home country have postponed dealing with them, even two years after many first arrived in the displacement camps.
According to experts, nations like the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Canada have ripped off the welcome mat for these women. They have relinquished responsibility for repatriation to another nation whenever possible or terminated their citizenship citing national security concerns. This despite the fact that many women were not charged or imprisoned for crimes or alleged acts of terrorism while in IS.
For comparison: USA, Russia, Germany, Finland, Bosnia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and others have returned Dozens of children and their mothers are believed to be the wives of ISIS fighters.
Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, a UK-based human rights group, says governments that refuse to repatriate nationals “relinquish their responsibilities” to their citizens.
“You are being held indefinitely without charge or trial under difficult conditions,” she says. “And the governments are not proposing a solution.”
Aden left her family in Australia in 2014 to travel to Turkey to join ISIS in Syria, according to Australian ABC Investigations reporter Dylan Welch. who interviewed them while reporting in the al-Hol camp in Syria. Why she wanted to go or how exactly she managed to get there is unclear.
According to Letta Tayler, assistant director of crisis and conflict at Human Rights Watch, ISIS fighters have effectively used social media to manipulate and recruit many young women and girls from around the world to join the group.
Aden told Welch she regretted her decision as it approached the Syrian border from Turkey. She said she tried unsuccessfully to call her mother to return home. The group she was with wouldn’t let her go. According to Welch, she would marry two Swedish ISIS fighters and have three children in five years. Her two husbands and one child died. It is unclear what role Aden played in ISIS.
After ISIS lost control of its last strongholds in Syria in 2019, the population in the al-Hol camp in the northeast of the country where Aden would land grew by 680% to more than 70,000 people. according to a general report from the Department of Defense inspector.
Today al-Hol is home to more than 60,000 people whose conditions continue to deteriorate, and 10,000 of them come from countries other than Syria or Iraq United Nations figures. Most of them are women and children.
“Conditions can mean torture”
Tayler traveled to al-Hol in July 2019, where she saw firsthand the conditions under which prisoners live.
“I saw worms in the water that children used to fill their water bottles,” she says.
Aid agencies said the coronavirus pandemic had worsened conditions. “They have no access to clean water or adequate food. Recent examples of violence and fears of a mass outbreak of COVID-19 only add to their suffering.” says Save the Syria Response Director for Children Sonia Khush.
On this file photo from March 31, 2019, children play in a mud puddle in the department for foreign families in the al-Hol camp in Hasakeh Province, Syria. Maya Alleruzzo / AP Hide caption
Maya Alleruzzo / AP
Maya Alleruzzo / AP
According to the Defense Ministry report, residents also fear threats of violence from outside forces and ISIS supporters in the camps.
Tayler simply says, “These conditions can mean torture.”
Point of no return
The report said that while Al-Hol detainees are “civilians who have not been charged with any crime, some residents are suspected family members of ISIS fighters and loyal to ISIS.”
But it also says that failing to return these citizens poses a greater threat to the anti-IS campaign than not bringing them home. It says: “The only viable solution is to have their countries of origin take them back.”
Governments have a constitutional duty to bring the women and children home and use due process, say Foa and Tayler. That means investigating crimes and protecting citizens detained abroad.
“What we are not saying is: litigation cannot take place. You really should,” says Foa.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month The country would not repatriate Aden because its mission is “to bring the national security interests of Australia to the fore. He said Australians” do not want terrorists who fought with terrorist organizations to enjoy citizenship privileges.
Australia has come under criticism for stripping her citizenship without evaluating her case.
The country’s counter-terrorism law says It can revoke citizenship from dual Australian nationals without a hearing.
Australia has revoked the citizenship of 20 other peopleAccording to the Lowy Institute think tank. It is believed that there is at least According to Human Rights Watch, 80 men, women and children can claim Australian citizenship in Syria.
The UK has used similar laws to justify action in the well-known case of Shamima Begum, who left London in 2015 to join ISIS. Officials revoked their British citizenship two years ago and also cited security concerns. The British Nationality Act The government gave cover from 1981 allowing civil servants to revoke British citizenship if it would “serve the common good” and would not render the person stateless.
In November 2019, a federal judge ruled that Muthana, a college student, was not a citizen and had no legal basis for a U.S. passport when she traveled to Syria. The decision is being challenged by her family.
It’s hard to get agreements through
Families can and can contest revocation of citizenship or refusal to repatriate citizens in court with varying outcomes. They often referred to several international agreements to represent their case.
The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness offers certain rights for people who lack citizenship of a country and want to prevent statelessness.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightss recognizes the right to acquire citizenship. It stipulates that “no one may be deprived of the right to enter the territory of the state in which he is a citizen.”
Two years ago, in a rare case of success, a German family won their challenge against Germany’s refusal to repatriate a woman with her three children detained in the al-Hol camp. The Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court said The family had the right to return home in accordance with the international covenant and the European Convention on Human Rights. The court also ruled that the state has a duty to protect the entire family.
But the Begum case a blow was dealt last month when the UK Supreme Court decided that she cannot return to the UK while struggling to restore her citizenship.
“Enforcement is extremely difficult in the international arena,” says Foa. and it is almost impossible to hold countries accountable for these agreements.
She says the difficulty in enforcing international law in most cases “really tells us that this issue is not going to be tried in court.”
“It is negotiated in the newspapers and in the corridors of power,” says Foa. “That is where this problem is actually being fought.”
Jaclyn Diaz reported from Washington, DC