The British government has offered the return of four children belonging to a couple who joined Daesh in Syria, on the condition that the mother stay behind.
Mehak Aslam, along with her husband Shahan Choudhury, travelled to Syria in 2014 to join Daesh at the height of their so-called caliphate, while they controlled vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, taking their children with them.
Following the military defeat of the group as a whole throughout the past two years the couple have been captured or surrendered. Aslam is living in a camp with her four children.
Meanwhile, Choudhury – who was a gravedigger for Daesh and admitted to burying dead Daesh fighters before the group’s collapse – is being detained in a prison in Syria nearby. Both parents have already had their British citizenship revoked.
The father of the stranded mother, Mohammed Aslam, was presented with the offer to repatriate his grandchildren, and has allegedly encouraged Mehak to agree to the terms by signing papers in order to at least save the children from life in the detention camp in which they have lived for almost a year.
In an interview with ITV News, Mohammed Aslam admitted that it is “a hard reality but at least they’ll be safe here – at least they’ll be safe and secure.” He added that he hopes his daughter will also eventually be allowed to return to the UK “for the sake of the children,” but stressed that the children were his main priority.
He says he would be willing to care for the four children himself, but added “every child needs their parents no matter how much love and affection we can offer.”
The four children in question initially had another sibling – a sister – before she was killed in an explosion in Syria. Aslam said that he personally blames his daughter and son-in-law for the death of the child: “She passed away, I can never forgive them for that. I find it very hard to accept what they’ve done. They wanted to take this step for themselves – that’s fine, that’s their problem. Why involve the kids in this?”
The incident has caused Aslam to fear for the future of his family members stuck in Syria, particularly the children. “We’ve lost one, I hope we don’t lose any more. And for that I’m angry – I’m angry with my daughter and son-in-law.”
While the UK government sets out to “urgently investigate” the possibilities of the repatriation, it is speculated whether this case could be the start of Britain returning its citizens who fled Daesh, many of whom regret the choice they made.
The British government and other European governments, however, have been hesitant to do so due to potential security risks.
With an estimated 60 children of British Daesh fighters stranded in the camps in Syria, it is believed that the potential return of these four children will lay out the path for the repatriation of other such children.