Hundreds of Islamic State foreign fighters are being held by Syrian Kurds in Kurdistan, but the Kurds say they will not try them. They have asked their home countries to please arrange to have them repatriated instead.
The Kurdish forces say they are holding approximately 900 of the Islamic State foreign jihadists. The jihadists come from 44 different countries.
Some of the captives are well known, including Alexandra Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh. These two jihadists are survivors of the IS kidnapping quartet that was notorious, not just for beheading people but for videotaping the beheadings.
Another ‘celebrity’ captive is French jihadist Adrien Guihal. He is said to be responsible for the attack that happened in Nice, France, in 2016. That was an attack by truck, driving down a busy street, that killed 86 people.
The Syrian Kurds are also thought to be holding over 500 women and over 1000 children from IS families. The women and children are said to be interned in special camps, whereas the jihadists are held in jail.
Some of the women have many children and there are usually a few different fathers, and fathers from different countries. Throw into the mix that the detainees do not have a correct ID, and the process is complicated.
IS has lost almost all of the cross-border proto-state that they once held on to from various offenses, in both Syria and next-door Iraq. They have lost almost all that land since 2014.
The Kurdish authorities have different viewpoints on foreigners in their jails to the Iraqis. The Iraqis sentence foreigners to death or give them life sentences if they belong to extremist groups. Kurdish authorities have repeatedly said they will not try foreign fighters. They do try local Syrian IS mercenaries, but not foreigners as there are just too many of them. If they did try them and their jail sentences were ended, they do not know where all the people would go. This is why they are hoping that the countries would take back their own nationals.
Also, the Syrian Kurds do not have laws for capital punishment.
In the meantime, it is thought that many women and children from Russia, Indonesia and Sudan will be taken back to their homes. It is the more western countries that are not rushing to take back their citizens, especially as they have had so many deadly attacks committed by IS in their own home ground.
According to Pentagon Joint Chief’s Chairman Joe Dunford, political considerations were a big factor in the delay in repatriations. There have to be strict laws to identify foreign fighters, prosecute, hopefully de-radicalise and then re-integrate them into society. Already two Americans have been returned back to the US to be tried. But France has said that any French adults should be tried where they are, as long as it is fair. Some reports say that these fighters could be sent to Guantanamo.