Dutch-French delegation picks up ISIS orphans from northeast Syria
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A top foreign relations official in northeast Syria on Monday announced that two Dutch and 12 French orphans were handed over to foreign diplomats a day earlier.
Abdulkarim Omar, the co-head of the foreign relations commission of the local administration of northeast Syria, said in a statement that the 14 orphans were handed over to their respective nations’ diplomats on Sunday.
The joint Dutch-French delegation was led by French Ambassador Eric Chevallier, Director of Crisis and Support Center in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Together, with some of our friends, we are pleased to be here with you today,” Ambassador Chevallier said in a video released by local media.
The foreign diplomats visited the foreign relations commission in Ain Issa and were received by Omar and Amal Dadah, the other co-head of the foreign relations commission of the local administration of northeast Syria.
Both the Dutch and French officials signed a document that confirmed the handover.
“I’m proud to be part of a mission led by France to bring back home very young children, among them will be two very young Dutch orphans,” Jan-Willem Beaujean, Director Consular Affairs and Visa Policy at the Dutch Foreign Ministry, said in the video after he signed the document.
Dutch newspaper AD reported that two young children who belong to a Dutch woman, 31-year-old Karenia, and her husband, a Belgian Islamic State fighter named Jamal El K., were handed over to Dutch diplomats. Both of the parents had been killed in Syria.
So far, the Dutch Foreign Ministry has not yet confirmed the visit.
Dutch authorities had previously said it was too risky for diplomats to pick up children from a conflict zone.
The Dutch have been in contact with Baghdad, Erbil, and the Syrian Kurds over the last few months to find a solution for the women accused of Islamic State membership and their children in Syria.
Both the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have called on countries in the European Union to bring home thousands of Islamic State members which the Kurdish-led forces had captured in Syria.
On June 5, two American women and six children were returned to the US government.
However, most European states have been reluctant to bring back Islamic State fighters or women and their children who are stuck in Syria.
Many EU countries fear that due to a lack of evidence, Islamic State members could be quickly released once they appear in court after they return home.
Some states, such as Norway, France, and the Netherlands, have recently returned the children of Islamic State families.
The father of one of the Dutch women in Syria with alleged ties to the Islamic State told Kurdistan 24 on the condition of anonymity that he hopes the decision paves the road for the return of other women and children.
“The first step has now been taken, and it shows the [Dutch] government did their best,” he stated, adding the decision would facilitate the repatriation of more women and children.
“I appreciate the efforts of the Kurdish authorities [in Syria].”
Dutch wives of Islamic State fighters had previously expressed their desire to return home.
“The best choice for our children and us is to return home. I have four children,” Um Abdurahman, 30, a Dutch woman who married an Islamic State member, told Kurdistan 24 in March at the al-Hol camp, adding that she was unable to feed her child correctly.
“The youngest is now four months, and I’m not happy with her health situation.”
According to data from the Dutch intelligence, there are 90 Dutch children in SDF-controlled refugee camps.
Additionally, 20 Dutchmen and 40 Dutch women are also in camps or SDF prisons.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany