ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Ayyub, 7, and Mahmud, 11, were handed over to their mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, from Trinidad and Tobago, on Monday with the help of rock band Pink Floyd, and a British human rights lawyer.
The children’s father kidnapped them from their mother in 2014, taking them to Syria to live in the so-called Islamic State caliphate.
However, after the liberation of Raqqa in October 2017, the father was killed, and the two children were taken under the care of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Telegraph reported that Pink Floyd’s frontman, Roger Waters, used his private jet to fly Perkins-Ferreira from the Caribbean to the Kurdistan Region before they crossed into Syria with a British human rights lawyer and activist Clive Stafford Smith to reunite the children with their mother.
After negotiations between the Democratic Autonomous Administration of the North and East of Syria (DAA) and British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the children were returned to their mother.
There are nearly 900 foreign Islamic State fighters in custody, with 400 to 500 Islamic State wives, and 1,000 children from 44 foreign countries. The number is expected to increase as the SDF continues to capture the last villages the extremist group holds in Deir al-Zor.
“I am from Britain, and the British government has not carried out its responsibilities. I know there is a big issue of ISIS prisoners,” Smith said during a press conference which Kurdistan 24 attended.
He said he would work to find a solution to the issue, and help bring back more Islamic State women and children.
“I plan to pursue [this issue] vigorously and legally.”
The DAA’s foreign office has been in contact with many foreign countries about the issue. However, most European countries have refused to take their citizens back.
So far, Kazakhstan, Russia, the United States, Indonesia, Sudan, and Lebanon have taken back some foreign Islamic State children and wives (and in some cases fighters). Moreover, some Islamic State fighters were transferred to Iraq.
The DAA previously indicated that the presence of those fighters is dangerous for the entire region. This is also the first time children of Islamic State members were taken out of Syria by a non-governmental organization. The DAA earlier stated that only governments could request and take back their citizens.
During a visit to Brussels in November, Abdul Karim Omer, a top Syrian Kurdish official in the Autonomous Administration in Northeast Syria, called on European governments to take back wives and children of Islamic State members.
According to the Syrian Kurdish official, the countries where these Islamic State fighters, wives, and children are from “are not taking responsibility and put all the burden on [the] self-administration.”
Nadim Houry, a terrorism/counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), previously told Kurdistan 24 that local authorities in northeast Syria could not cope with the burden.
“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.”
The return of Islamic State fighters “is a shared responsibility by home countries and the international coalition,” Houry underlined, not just a responsibility for the authorities in northeast Syria.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Ferhad Ehme from Qamislo)