ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Netherlands’ Minister of Justice and Security said on Friday his government was seeking options to cooperate with local authorities in Syria for the return of women accused of membership in the Islamic State and their children.
Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus made the comments to Dutch state broadcaster NOS two weeks after a Dutch citizen died in a displacement camp in northern Syria’s Ain al-Issa from an illness, leaving two children behind.
Officials of the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) for northeast Syria first thought she was a Sudanese citizen, based on previous remarks she had made when arriving at the camp. After her death, the DAA discovered she was a Dutch citizen.
The minister said he has been in contact with the local authorities to look into the possibility of returning women associated with the Islamic State to the Netherlands, but would not comment on the deceased woman specifically.
He did, however, share that he had been talking to the Kurds for some time now.
Grapperhaus said he wanted to find out if the Dutch government could facilitate the relocation of the women and any children with them to a safe area with the help of people “who have power over the camps.”
This is the first time the Dutch government has confirmed it is coordinating with the local administration on the matter.
Until now, the European nation’s authorities have insisted that the women should travel to a country with a Dutch diplomatic mission and present themselves to begin the official process of returning home. The women, though, are not able to leave the country, or even the camps.
Last week, a Dutch court called on the government to bring back six of the women and their children. The judge’s ruling stated that, if the US withdraws from northern Syria, the balance of power could shift to the detriment of Kurds and therefore also increase the danger to women and children held by them.
Co-chair of the DAA, Abdul Hamid al-Muhabash, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that his administration had called on various countries to take back their citizens with connections to the Islamic State.
He said that “the administration and the Syrian people demand of the states from which these ISIS fighters belong, more than 50 nationalities in all, to judge them according to their constitutions.”
He said that this was “because they committed crimes against the Syrian people and killed them, including many civilians and children, and more than 8,000 [SDF] fighters were martyred.”
As such, Muhabash stated, it was not up to them to put Islamic State fighters on trial. Instead, he contended, “They should return to their countries.”
In a previous press conference in December, he said that, at the last count, 2,622 foreign nationals, “including 584 women and 1,248 children from 46 nationalities,” were being held in camps and prisons under the DAA's control.
That number is now growing, since the Islamic State is almost fully territorially defeated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its last pocket of territory in Deir al-Zor Province.