Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – Syria’s semi-autonomous Kurdish administration handed Tajikistan 146 women and children related to Islamic State group jihadists, a Kurdish official said, in the first such repatriation to the ex-Soviet state. Thousands of foreign extremists joined IS as fighters, often bringing their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” declared by the group across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The jihadists were dislodged in 2019 from their last scrap of territory in Syria by Kurdish-led forces backed by a US-led coalition, and Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on countries to repatriate their citizens from crowded displaced camps. But nations have mostly received them only sporadically, fearing a domestic political backlash. The Kurds handed over “42 women and 104 children, including orphans, who were held in the Al-Hol and Roj camps” in northeast Syria to Tajikistan’s ambassador to Kuwait Zabidullah Zabidov, Kurdish foreign affairs official Fanar al-Kaeet said.
The women “did not commit any crimes or terrorist acts in northeastern Syria,” he said. Al-Hol and Roj camps are home to tens of thousands of relatives of IS militants from Syria and abroad, with the former holding 10,000 foreigners. Kurdish-led forces escorted the women, some in colourful clothing, others in long black robes, and the children, as they were bussed out to Qamishli airport, AFP correspondents in Qamishli reported.