ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch national broadcaster NOS reports on Thursday that two suspected Dutch-Moroccan Islamic State women presented themselves to the Dutch embassy in Ankara on Tuesday after escaping the al-Hol camp in Syria.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry of Affairs in a letter to the parliament said the two women and their three children want to return to the Netherlands. Both are suspect of terrorist crimes, the Dutch government explained.
“Those involved escaped the al-Hol reception camp a few weeks ago - before the Turkish military action [on Oct. 9] in northern Syria,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok wrote in a letter to parliament.
Both the Dutch-Moroccan women and their children are now in a Turkish prison, awaiting local prosecution or deportation to the Netherlands.
Lawyer André Seebregts, who represents one of the woman, told Kurdistan 24 that his client was staying in al-Hol and left due to the ongoing threat of violence from other radical women.
“Winter is also coming and hundreds of children have died in [refugee] camps [in the past] due to the cold [weather],” he said.
“It was a difficult decision for them to leave the camp and the trip to the consulate was not without danger, especially with a child. But staying, for her, was also no longer an option.”
One of the women, Fatima H. lost her Dutch citizenship after the government stripped it on Oct. 29.
Dutch authorities refuse to repatriate Dutch citizens that joined the Islamic State. They argue they cannot send diplomats to pick up the foreign Islamic State fighters or their families as the situation in northeastern Syria remains “unsafe.”
The Dutch government instructed women or fighters to travel to neighboring countries or regions with a Dutch mission, such as Turkey, Iraq, or the Kurdistan Region. Fatima’s lawyer Tamara Buruma noted Fatima did “everything the Dutch state asked for” and argued the decision to strip her of her nationality was “unfair since she followed the government’s instructions.”
“She showed up with her children at the Dutch embassy with the request to return to the Netherlands.”
“Instead of providing consular assistance, her nationality was revoked. This is contradicts what the Dutch [government] had promised,” Buruma continued.
The Dutch government added it was not the first time Islamic State suspects reported to a Dutch diplomatic post to return to the Netherlands.
The government had previously refused a US proposal to help facilitate the repatriation of a small number of women with alleged Islamic State ties and their children.
Luqman Ahmi, spokesperson for the Kurdish-led self-administration for northeastern Syria, told Kurdistan 24 it was safe for officials to come retrieve their citizens, although the Syrian Kurds would prefer the establishment of an international court to try suspects.
“There is no major threat to the roads linking the detention camps in Qamishli, Hasakah, Derik.”
Earlier in June, a Dutch diplomat picked up two orphans from Syria as part of a French delegation, and met with local officials in Syria “when it was more peaceful.”
According to the Dutch intelligence service (AIVD), there are 40 Dutch adults and 65 children currently in camps or detention centers in northeastern Syria.
During the Turkish attack that started on Oct. 9, no Dutch national was reported as having escaped. Most suspects broke out of the Ain al Issa camp that was under direct Turkish fire.
Ilham Ahmed, the president of the executive committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), told a congressional hearing on Oct. 23 that a total of 600 escaped, including six French nationals, two Belgian ones, and 10 more foreigners.
Belgian news outlet HLN reported that the two Belgian nationals, Tatiana Wielandt (27) and Bouchra Abouallal (27), escaped Ain al issa in October and are now staying in a tent in a territory under Turkish control.
Editing by Nadia Riva