Dilemmas and challenges regarding the EU position to the ISIS Women and Minors remaining in Syrian camps

This year, the 10th anniversary of the relentless Syrian civil war occurs two years after the Head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Press and Public Affairs, Mustafa Bali, declared in his Twitter account the end of the so-called Islamist State ‘caliphate’. It extended through vast territories in Syria and Iraq at its peak, as can be seen in the map below. However, by March 2019, the Kurdish- led armed group, a vital member of the global coalition against ISIS, succeeded in defeating the terrorist group in its last stronghold, the Syrian town of Baghouz, near the border with Iraq. 

Maximum extent of ISIL’s territorial control in Syria and Iraq on 21st May 2015. Source: Wikipedia 

Albeit the nosedive of ISIS epitomized an outstanding success for the international community that joined their forces against Islamic terrorism, governments worldwide face a myriad of complex and demanding challenges nowadays. A certain case is considered highly critical among them because of the legal discussions and ethical dilemmas that the situation poses. This is the existence of around 6,902 foreign women and up to 6,577 foreign minors endangered in camps in northeast Syria.

Regarding the EU, Member States estimate that of those 5,000–6,000 foreign terrorist fighters who travelled from Europe to the conflict zone in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, around 10 to 15% remain detained in the region. Whether they are men, females, adults or minors is unknown since many countries do not distinguish gender or age in their figures. 

The following paper intends to analyse the situation of women and children in Syrian camps who belonged to ISIS answering the following research questions: ‘What steps should the EU Member States take for solving the security, legal and ethical dilemmas deriving from ISIS women and minors detained in Syrian camps?’

This question is relevant since there is a large number of women and minors from across the globe who joined, were recruited, were taken or in the case of children, born into the group, and seek to be repatriated to their countries of origin. Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, considers the repatriation of these people is as a “moral imperative and legal obligation” for UN member states. However, as it will be explained, the scenario is multifaceted, and EU states differ from or cannot commit to the UN’s call. 

Read the full essay here

Author: Marisa López González

Picture source: UNICEF/UN0277723/Souleiman

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