The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have cornered ISIS into a patch of land less than four square kilometres in recent days. They are fighting the last ISIS militants in a final shred of territory in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border, causing thousands of people to flee.
Amongst those fleeing are young women of European origin now detained by Syria’s Kurdish authorities in camps holding hundreds of foreign alleged ISIS fighters. There are thousands of their wives and children in the camps for the displaced and most of them want to return to Europe.
Many of the women were just girls of 15 four years ago marrying ISIS militants who already had one, two or three wives. Today, many of them are still teenagers with two or three children in tow and one 19-year-old German girl with two children who converted to Islam to become the third wife of an ISIS terrorist said, “I want to go back to Germany to my family, because I want my old life back. Now I know that it was a big, big mistake.”
More than 36,000 people have fled the SDF assault since early December, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor that relies on a network of sources inside the country. Among them, 3,200 have been detained as alleged militants.
A report from the Kings College University International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said that 4,761 (13 per cent) of 41,490 foreign citizens who became affiliated with ISIS in Iraq and Syria between April 2013 and June 2018 were women. A further 4,640 (12pc) were minors. Nothing like the numbers of refugees Europe has absorbed since 2015 when the flood gates opened but these young girls and their children are not welcome back.
In the report it says, “We believe some women may now pose a particular security threat based on several factors. These include the physical security roles and related training that some women have undertaken in ISIS-held territory, and the potential to transfer or apply these skills in other locations, or to their children.”
“The narratives within ISIS itself related to women’s roles in combat have also evolved, broadening the circumstances under which women may be asked to take up arms. We have also seen women active in ISIS linked plots (directed or inspired by the group) in countries such as France, Morocco, Kenya, Indonesia and the US, suggesting that women are indeed important to consider as potential threats.”
So where do we go from here? We know that Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of US forces from Syria and according to US counter-terrorism chiefs Jihadi brides who left Europe to marry ISIS fighters wreaking death and destruction across large swathes of Syria and Iraq should now be taken back by their home countries.
One more for the in-tray of German MEP Manfred Weber or Finland’s former prime minister Alexander Stubb who are favourites to replace Jean-Claude Juncker who I’m certain will not touch this one with a barge pole before he leaves his post as president of the European Commission.