ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Seven orphaned children whose parents were members of the Islamic State have been reunited with their grandfather in Erbil following their recent handover from Syrian Kurdish authorities to a Swedish delegation at the border between Syria and Iraq's Kurdistan Region.
The Swedish team met with Syrian Kurdish officials recently after an agreement was struck to return the children, who were found after their parents had been killed in the town of Baghouz, the Islamic State's final former territory in Syria.
Following the collapse of Baghouz, many of those who fled and were captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and have been settled in the sprawling al-Hol camp.
The camp’s residents are living in harsh conditions as those placed there number far above the facility's capacity. It currently houses around 70,000 people, many of them women accused of Islamic State membership and their children. The seven children, Swedish nationals, were among these.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström in April said his government was “working intensively so that children with a connection to Sweden who are in Syria get the help they need.”
Patricio Galvez, the grandfather of the children, along with the Swedish delegation expects to repatriate them back to their home country, affirming Stockholm’s commitment to facilitate the return of the offspring of their citizens who left to join the Islamic State following its emergence in 2014.
Speaking with Kurdistan 24, Galvez retold the story of his family. His daughter, he explained “had become a Muslim in 2008 and married a guy” with whom she went on to “have four kids.” “They didn’t tell me anything and three months after they had joined ISIS, they called [and told] me.”
The grandfather claimed he had told his daughter and son-in-law to turn themselves over to the SDF but that they had refused to listen. In March, both would die during the SDF's last siege and eventual offensive on Baghouz.
The two Islamic State members’ children are currently residing in the Kurdistan Region. Four of them have Swedish passports but the other three were born in Syria and have no travel documentation or IDs, a common problem for children born of the extremist group's members.
“Now, the children are with me and I am making the preparations to take them back to Sweden.”
Editing by John J. Catherine