Pressuring France to Bring Them Home, Women Who Joined ISIS Stage Hunger Strike

PARIS — In a determined enchantment to France’s authorities, some 10 Frenchwomen who joined the Islamic State and are actually being held in detention camps in Syria started a starvation strike on Saturday, protesting the federal government’s refusal to deliver them residence for trial.

The girls are amongst dozens of French moms and their 200 or so kids who’ve been detained by Kurdish forces for at the least two years in squalid camps, and are in a state of authorized limbo.

“We decided to stop feeding ourselves, regardless of the risks, until we meet the right people to get answers about our future,” one of many girls mentioned in a voice message obtained by The New York Times.

Two French attorneys representing the ladies confirmed the starvation strike in a statement launched on Sunday night.

Since at the least 2019, when the Islamic State lost its closing foothold in Syria, some 60,000 relations of Islamic fighters, principally girls and youngsters, have been caught in fetid, disease-ridden detainment camps run by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, with no clear future in sight.

France, together with different Western nations that even have residents detained there, has resisted calls from households and rights teams to repatriate its individuals, and it has introduced again solely a handful of kids.

Repatriating residents who had left to wage jihad has lengthy been a delicate subject in France, a rustic that’s nonetheless reeling from years of Islamist terrorist assaults. But the starvation strike, together with latest initiatives from French lawmakers and residents, could add strain on the federal government to take motion within the face of a state of affairs that’s worsening by the day.

United Nations human rights specialists final week urged 57 states, together with France, to repatriate girls and youngsters whose “continued detention, on unclear grounds” within the camps “is a matter of grave concern and undermines the progression of accountability, truth and justice.”

France has lengthy argued that adults who joined the Islamic State, together with girls, ought to be tried the place they dedicated their crimes: in Syria and Iraq. Several males have already been tried and sentenced in Iraqi courts.

But making an attempt girls has to date proved unimaginable since their potential crimes are unclear and since the Kurdish administration that’s detaining them isn’t internationally acknowledged. Kurdish forces who run the camps have referred to as for the repatriation of all foreigners, saying they can not preserve them indefinitely in an unstable area.

The girls holding the starvation strike say they need to be tried in France.

“We are there, waiting, in tents, in the cold, in the winter,” one starvation striker mentioned in a voice message.

She mentioned: “We want to pay our debt to society for the choice we made to come here. But it’s time for this nightmare to end and for us to go home.”

The New York Times obtained a number of voice messages from the ladies however isn’t publishing their names as a result of they’ve acquired loss of life threats from Islamic State supporters who oppose their want to return to France.

Countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have every repatriated greater than 100 of their residents, many greater than Western nations the place public opinion is firmly towards bringing residence those that left to struggle with Islamic State.

Rights teams have pressed the governments to at the least deliver residence their residents’ kids, arguing that the minors didn’t select to go to Syria and that having them raised in camps which have develop into cauldrons of Islamist radicalization would solely worsen the state of affairs.

But France has agreed to repatriate kids solely on a case-by-case foundation, giving precedence to orphans and fragile kids whose moms agree to allow them to go. To date, 35 kids have been introduced again, together with a 7-year-old woman affected by a coronary heart defect who was flown to France for pressing medical care in April.

In the present French political local weather, repatriations would possibly show much more fraught. In the autumn, the nation was hit by a number of Islamist terrorist assaults that reopened previous wounds. A draft legislation geared toward combating Islamism is predicted to get closing approval within the French Senate subsequent month.

Families of relations stranded in Syrian camps and rights teams have lengthy denounced this piecemeal repatriation course of. In northern France, the mom of a Frenchwoman detained in Syria has been on hunger strike since Feb. 1 to protest France’s coverage.

In a public letter, two French lawmakers not too long ago condemned the circumstances of the camps and the federal government’s reluctance to act, which it referred to as “deeply inhuman and irresponsible political cowardice.”

“If, because of our inertia, we continue to condone the guilty silence of the government,” the letter learn, “then we will have been the lawmakers who let innocent children die.”

A spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, which oversees the repatriation course of, couldn’t be instantly reached for remark.

Marie Dosé and Ludovic Rivière, the attorneys for the ladies on starvation strike, mentioned in an announcement that the ladies ought to be solely tried in France, and that “for more than two years,” they “have been waiting to pay for what they have done.”

In one of many voice messages, a girl mentioned that they wanted “a helping hand from our country now.”

A trial in France, she mentioned, can be “a second chance.”

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