Islamic State's foreign fighters: What happens to them now?
Syria. Islamic state is a state no longer earlier this week, the Jihadist group which at its peak controlled an area of Syria and Dirac lodge of Austria and imposed its brutal rule upon eight million. People was chased out of its last pocket of territory by goose a town on the frightens river near Syria's border with Iraq in losing its territory is Lennox state lost many of its fighters, but it didn't lose all of them. Thousands of the caliphates foot soldiers are presenting themselves and their families at refugee camps and presenting the countries from which many of them hailed with a considerable political legal and ethical pickle. Which is basically this. What is to be done with them? There have been some calls for an international tribunal. But it is surely impossible to put so many people on trial. They cannot simply be abandoned, and it would be a brave politician willing to bet their career or a society willing to bet it safety on these. Jihadists returning home as altogether reformed characters. This is the foreign desk. Hot is pre programmed to think of every defeats as a test in. There will never see anything in as permanent defeat because it has already pre-programmed into their minds mindset and into their psyche. If you send these people to Iraq, they will be killed. So you have this dilemma of western countries that don't want their people back. Some of them are willing to send them to Iraq to be put on trial there. But they're sending them to Iraq with a full understanding that they're going to be put on trial and going to be held in conditions, which could very well include torture and result in the death sentence. The tendency that we have in western Europe amendment to say, it's not out problem. They left us. They took up arms against us. We want nothing to do with them is all very well by the peasant doesn't cease to exist. So I think it behoves the society which broken up to consider why has this Cussing taken on against us? And what should we be doing about that not with the individual concern? Sent only but also with society as a whole. You're listening to the foreign desk with me Andrew Miller today will be hearing from a former director of global counterterrorism at M I six and from the full member of al-qaeda to look at what can be done, and what should be done with defeated jihadis. But I for a view from the ground from Syria on joined by Jane, Arraf international correspondent with NPR. Jane, stop by asking you to set the scene forest where he speaking to us from exactly what have you been able to see over the past few days. Well, I am in a which is one of the cities in the sort of a ton of Mus Kurdish region of Syria. And this is also where some leadership the Kurdish leadership is these officials who are trying to persuade other countries that they should have an international tribunal here in this northeastern part of Syria and been able to go to a couple of the camps where they're holding foreign his wills Iraqi. And Syrian ISIS families, and I've also been able to speak to one of the foreign fighters. Those foreign fighters have been apprehended by Kurds and the US coalition the US led coalition in many cases, they've been in US detention in Syria detention centers, actually, run by the US, and now handed over back to Kurdish forces, do you have a sense of what kind of numbers we're talking about in terms of the ISIS fighters currently being held by the codes. And that's all of the Iraqi Syrian and foreign there are said to be about seven thousand of them. So that is mostly Syrian and Iraqi about a thousand of them eight hundred two thousand or said to be foreign fighters accused foreign fighters, we have to make clear that they haven't actually been tried or convicted yet, but they are suspected to be foreign fighters. So that's all the way up from eight hundred to about a thousand is the estimate you generally get from US military officials as wills occurred. In what sense you able to get a what kind of conditions that being held in? Well, compared to what they came from which was almost certain death as US air strikes in waters attacked the last bit of their territory. It's, you know, not bad the conditions of interviewing these fighters preclude either asking for getting detailed answers about how they're being held in where they're being held. But one of the ones that I interviewed he was a Canadian fighter had been held in solitary confinement for quite a while. He also said that he was having trouble getting medical care. Clearly was well enough to do an interview. But certainly medical care seems to be an issue, but having said that, you know, having covered this battle against ISIS the war against ISIS over the entire ISIS territory. It's much better than the fate that befell a lot of them which was basically being obliterated by air. Yikes. Mortars and in other cities, if we boil this entire story for the moment down to this one Canadian fighter. What sense were you able to get all of his views on gun to assume it was a he his views on now on the subject of the ideology. He joined up to fight fo did you get the sensitize east had much in the way of a rethink? Yeah. Pretty much all of them have. And this was really interesting because I found this as well. In the case of the women who were married to ISIS fighters. They have now been for several months at least in detention with either Kurds or Americans, this particular foreign fighter told me that you know, he'd had a lot of time to think, but not only that he'd had a lot of interactions with the Americans who interrogated him and with the people who are holding him and with the Kurds. He said, for instance, but one point the Americans had given him novels to read one of the women. I spoke with told me that she had. Been aware. And I'm not sure if this is true, but she said she hadn't been aware of that ISIS held slaves. You know, they took thousands of UCD's from the tiny ziti religious minority as slaves massacred, the men and took the women and girls as sex slaves. She said she'd never met one until one of them was brought to the detention center to talk to them. And she said, and that's when I realized it was true. It wasn't just rumors. What they did to these women. So yes, in many cases, certainly in the case of this Canadian fighter. I it seems to have had an impact another foreign woman who is married to ISIS fighters told me that she was happy that she wasn't sent straight back to her country. She was from the Netherlands, and she said had she been sent back. She would still have been radicalized. But as it was her views of changed a lot. She said in being held for months and months by the Kurds because the biggest question, I guess the overarching question that we're looking at in this episode is with the ideology. Of ISIS will survive the destruction of the caliphate that the whole selling point of Islam state, and there was a clue in the name was that it had conquered territory. It was building a nation. It was building a homeland. If it is seen to have filed in that central enterprise. Do you think it's still going to be able to recruit people who might be inclined towards jihad? Or is it you'll sense from talking to the people you just mentioned that they kind of starting to realize that they might have back to lose a well there are a couple of things here. One is that in terms of ISIS being able to recreate a territory the caliphate had held which ranged for seventy thousand square kilometres, roughly and encompassed major cities. No one really believes they'll be able to do that. Again. In part of the reason, it's very apparent in Iraq. For instance, the people of Mosul, which is the second biggest city in Iraq. At first, many of them will tell you. They welcomed. Isis five years ago when ISIS came in because they so hated the Iraqi government and security forces, and then they realized what ISIS actually was which was indescribably brutal. The also they will not make that mistake. Again. They know what ISIS is now they know the dangers. But having said that there is a real fear that there is another ISIS in the making because we're talking about roughly in the case of Iraq thirty thousand members of ISIS families. Now a lot of those are children. So let's leave aside the children because children are children. But if you take the adults in those families, the women, for instance, a lot of them do still believe in the ideology, there is nothing that has changed their minds since then as for the foreigners. You know, a story I hear over and over and talking particularly to these foreign women is I didn't know what I was getting into. I don't understand Syria. I married. The sky might boyfriend told me to come. So those ones seemed to have had an awakening. And those are certainly the ones that want you to know they've had an awakening the, you know, I think we also have to realize that there are lots of those people in detention in these camps who are not talking to us because they believe were infidels because they still believe in the ideology and in the coun- recently in L hall camp, which now has more than seventy thousand people in it in northeastern Syria, some of the people running the camp told me that there are new arrivals all the time. And it's those new arrivals who are the most still radicalized that they've been saying in some cases that the head of ISIS abo- becquerel daddy ordered them to come to the camp that they will stay in the camp. But then Baghdadi and ISIS will take them out of the camp. So there is no one who does not believe that ISIS is still a threat those ones who will. Speak to you. Then what do they want to happen now, especially the ones who have come from outside, Iraq and Syria have the old discovered. A sudden enthusiasm for democratic G prosise. Yes. Well. It depends where they come from. So there was a group of women. I met Dutch women they want to go back. And some of them said we understand we broke the law. We want to stand trial. But it's our children were worried about they wanted their children to be handed over to their relatives. In many cases. These are very small children toddlers, really young the others. It depends again depends entirely where they come from a I met quite a few women from eastern Europe. And there was a Chinese woman. They are all terrified of being sent back to their countries because they believe they would be executed not only that they're even afraid to contact their relatives because even by contacting their relatives their relatives would end up in jail. They say so the ones who come from western countries tend to want to be sent back there. But as you know, the problem is these countries don't want to take them. They don't want to take them mostly for two reasons. One is it's really not clear how much evidence would carry over. If they were to stand trial in their own countries. And then the other thing is they could actually pose a danger if they can't be put on trial. They can't be prosecuted for things they may have done here. Then they will have to let them go, and they will be free in their own countries. So it's a dilemma you mentioned that there is some enthusiasm among the Syrian Kurdish leadership for the idea of an international tribunal have they talked at all about what they see as the scope of that they can't realistically intend to put tens of thousands of people on trial on the they can't know and by its very nature and international tribunal would have to be set up by the international community. And there isn't a whole lot of appetite for that for one thing the Kurdish leadership here is not internationally recognised. That's a big deal. And then these things will take years and years. There has been a move to send some of these fighters in any case from countries that don't want the. Back to Iraq and Iraq can prosecute them. If they've also been in Iraq because a lot of these fighters did come from Iraq from Mosul the foreign fighters, even when they were driven out of Mosul, they came to Syria, so they could be prosecuted in Iraq. Now, the problem there is those are not transparent trials, they're not run, according to international standards, and in a lot of cases, they do end up with the death penalty. That's one thing that the Kurds keep saying if you send these people to Iraq, they will be killed. So you have this dilemma of western countries that don't want their people back. Some of them are willing to send them to Iraq to be put on trial there. But they're sending them to Iraq with a full understanding that they're going to be put on trial and going to be held in conditions, which could very well include torture and result in the death