(Worthy News) – The Dutch are facing social and political unrest over the government’s decision to return at least some of the dozens of mainly female Islamic State group fighters and their 56 children from Syria to the Netherlands. The government views it as a humanitarian and legal obligation. Still, populist parties fear the radicalized returnees may threaten Dutch security.
Recently, a Dutch government delegation arrived in Qamishli, a predominantly Kurdish city in northeastern Syria.
Watched by local reporters, the Dutch Special Envoy to Syria, Emiel De Bont, announced that four Dutch nationals would be allowed to return home. Among them were the wife of an Islamic State fighter and her two children, along with an orphan whose parents died in Syria. “I am here today with a clear and well-defined mandate to receive in the care of our mission a small number of Dutch nationals,” De Bont stressed.
He was accompanied by Abdul-Karim Omar, a senior Kurdish official with the ruling Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria. Omar denied that returning Islamic State followers would avoid punishment. “This doesn’t mean these people haven’t committed serious crimes. Those countries that want their individuals back will try them at their courts,” he claimed.
Omar’s soldiers played a crucial role in defeating the Islamic State terror group’s self-described caliphate in northeastern Syria. They captured thousands of IS fighters, as well as their wives and children.
MANY IN CAMP
Many are now being held at the al-Hol camp in Syria.
If it’s up to Dutch populist parties, they will stay there. Meet Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders leads the Freedom Party or PVV. At a turbulent parliamentary session, Wilders said the government was cozying up to Islamic State.
And he accused the Foreign Minister, Sigrid Kaag, of sympathizing with Islamic State terrorists. The minister reacted angrily. “Sometimes, it must be effortless to be Geert Wilders because you air the most reprehensible allegations,” she told him.
“But, then, you repeat them on [social networking service] Twitter. You don’t take any responsibility, and you don’t know what you’re doing with the integrity and lives of people,” Kaag said. “I despise your words. And I say this with all the strength I have,” she fumed before walking away angrily.
But Wilders didn’t back down. “I say to Ms. Kaag, who now cowardly walks away, that I despise her actions. I despise her actions incredibly deeply. Ms. Kaag brought back Islamic State terrorists to the Netherlands. They will be let free and pollute our streets and endanger people such as families visiting shopping malls,” he exclaimed.
And, Wilders warned “hundreds” more “terrorists will come here. That is what Ms. Kaag is doing. She also subsidized Palestinian organizations that were responsible for killing a Jewish underage girl with a car bomb.”
PREMIER UNDER PRESSURE
The debate on returning Islamic State fighters and their families has put pressure on Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who currently heads a transitional government.
It views allowing Dutch Islamic State militants to return home as a legal duty to ensure they face trial for alleged war crimes.
The government would prefer court procedures in the Middle East. But it says the death penalty in countries like Iraq prevents this. The Dutch government is also under pressure from humanitarian groups to allow children to return.
At a camp in Syria, Islamic State bride Hafidi waits in her tent. In a documentary aired by Dutch public television, the woman, whose husband was killed, expressed concerns about her future.
“I hope they will one day take the responsibility to take us back. But, then, I hope the children will go to a better place with a better life. That’s what I hope,” the woman said.
With tears in her eyes, she added. “Me, if I go to prison, I take the consequences for what I did. But for my children, it is no life here in the camp, almost two years not. I am crying.”
She said what she did “was stupid.” But Haifida declined to condemn Islamic State, citing security concerns. And with the Netherlands divided on returning more Islamic militants and their families, her future remains uncertain.