Dutch government confirms return of Dutch woman, children from Syria

Members of the media take photos of a Dutch woman with alleged links to ISIS and her children in Qamishlo, Syria, June 5, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24/Hisham Arafat)
Members of the media take photos of a Dutch woman with alleged links to ISIS and her children in Qamishlo, Syria, June 5, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24/Hisham Arafat)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - In a letter to Dutch lawmakers, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag and Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus confirmed on Saturday that a Dutch national with alleged ties to ISIS, her two underage children, and another orphaned minor had arrived in the Netherlands from Syria.

This comes one day after the adult, referred to in public reports only as “Ilham B,” and the three children were picked up in Syria by a Dutch delegation that included Special Envoy to Syria Emiel de Bont and Dirk Jan Nieuwenhuis, Director for Consular Affairs and Visa Policy at Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Read More: Dutch repatriate woman and children with ties to ISIS from Syria

Ilham B’s lawyer, Advocaat Tamara Buruma, told Kurdistan 24 that she was not permitted to comment on the case.

This author previously interviewed Ilham B. in 2017 for a Dutch newspaper in the Syrian city of Ain Issa after she had reached out through an online messenger application to ask about alternative methods for leaving the displacement camp where she was being held.

Last year, the Dutch government also informed members of parliament that the government would get in contact with European countries and other relevant parties regarding the case of Ilham B. for her repatriation to prevent her from avoiding prosecution on charges related to ISIS.

The judge hearing her case warned last year that he would close proceedings if the government would not return her to Syria. This would have meant that she, plus other female Dutch ISIS suspects, could walk free, the Dutch newspaper Parool reported earlier.

According to a tweet on Saturday by the Rojava Information Center (RIC), Dutch Syria envoy De Bont stressed that day that the repatriation occurred as part of a "very specific consular legal mission" in the context of legal decisions made by the Dutch court.

The Dutch government added that it was an “exceptional opportunity” to bring the suspect and her two children to the Netherlands. “Therefore, a special operation was carried out under complex circumstances. The suspects will be arrested on arrival in the Netherlands for criminal prosecution.”

According to published reports, the three minors were handed over to the state agency for child protection.

The minister said the third case was a case of “international child abduction.” Dutch newspaper Trouw reported that it was a 12-year old girl who had been kidnapped by her mother before her father sued the state to force the Netherlands to bring her back.

Most likely, the case deals with Dutch father Jeremy Lynch, whose ex-partner kidnapped his child Jelitia and took her to Syria in 2015. Last year, he said he had filed the lawsuit, but neither the government nor lawyers working on the case have yet confirmed this, citing security and privacy rules that limit public statements on such cases.

Dutch authorities had previously said it was too risky for diplomats to pick up children from a conflict zone and had not made the journey to Syria since 2019 when a joint Dutch-French delegation repatriated orphans, including two Dutch children.

Editing by John J. Catherine