ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A delegation from the Foreign Relations Office of the Self-Administration of North and East Syria met with an American delegation on Wednesday to discuss the issue of repatriation of foreign Islamic State (IS) fighters and their families.
Dr. Abdulkarim Omar, Co-Chair of the Foreign Relations Office, Fannir Al-Ka’ait, Vice President Rania Khalil, US Ambassador William Roebuck, the Chief Adviser of the Special Presidential Envoy of the International Coalition against IS, and Maxwell Martin, a diplomat at the US State Department attended the meeting.
“We exchanged views on the issue of a large number of [IS] foreign fighters and their families and the need to find appropriate solutions,” the Foreign Relations Office of the Self-Administration of North and East Syria said.
During a press conference in Brussels on Oct. 31, Omar called on governments in Europe to take back wives and children of IS members.
The official said they now hold 790 foreign IS fighters, 584 women, and over 1,248 children from 46 different countries.
“This is very dangerous because our area is not stable, and because of the Turkish attacks on our region,” he said in Brussels.
According to Omar, no European government has taken back IS wives, fighters, or children. Only the United States, Sudan, Russia, and Indonesia have brought back some wives and children.
Reflecting the unwillingness of Western governments to deal with this issue, Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, told reporters in October that there had to be a method of prosecution before IS fighters and their relatives return home.
“You know, a lot of these people are dangerous people, and to bring them back you want to make sure that they can be prosecuted and what’s the evidentiary basis for that and everything,” he said.
Nadim Houry, a terrorism/counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Kurdistan 24 the press conference in Brussels was a clear sign the local de facto authorities in northeast Syria could not cope with the burden.
“This press conference is a clear reminder that the local authorities in northern Syria feel they are unable and they do not want to face this burden, and they do not want to prosecute” the foreign IS members and their families.
The local authorities in northern Syria have not yet brought any suspected foreign IS fighters to trial, and have declared they do not plan to.
“Given this position, it’s imperative to find alternatives and to prosecute those suspected of grave crimes,” the HRW director noted. “The best place for Europeans would be their home countries.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany