Belgium authorities bring six ISIS orphans home
Belgium authorities brought home six orphans on Thursday, born to Belgian citizens who joined ISIS and were subsequently killed in battle – leaving their children to languish in Syrian camps.
Kurdish authorities, who allowed the children to pass through their region in northern Syria, transferred the children to Belgian officials. The children’s jihadist parents met their deaths in ISIS battles which culminated in the Islamic State’s ultimate defeat in March 2019.
“These are children who were born in our country and who today no longer have parents,” Belgian Finance Minister Alexander De Croo said on VRT public radio.
“These are children who were alone in the camps, who have no support,” De Croo added. “There’s no question of taking back parents who chose to join terrorist groups,” De Croo clarified. “These children had no choice,” adding that four of the six children are older than 10 but none are suspected of participating in ISIS activities.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Wednesday that Belgium has signed an agreement with Kurdish authorities allowing the orphans to travel through Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
“This must be extended to men and women in our camps and prison, not only children,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), wrote on Twitter.
Thousands of surviving ISIS fighters and their families are imprisoned in Kurdish-run camps in Syria and many Western countries face the question of whether to take back their errant citizens. Most are unwilling to bring home actual ISIS fighters but the dilemma of bringing home innocent children and wives who did not engage in ISIS activity is a more difficult one.
Norwegian authorities took in five orphans from an ISIS family earlier this month. “Following a request made by the Kingdom of Norway … five Norwegian orphans related to ISIS jihadists were handed over to a delegation from the Norwegian foreign ministry,” Norwegian spokesperson Kamal Akef stated at the time.