European governments have been urged by a counterterrorism group to “demonstrate their commitment to justice” by reconsidering their stance on the repatriation of citizens who left their countries to join Daesh. The call was made by the Soufan Centre in an effort “to break the cycle” of extremism and radicalisation.
The Soufan Centre is a “leading national security and counterterrorism” organisation, headed by former FBI agent Ali Soufan. It claims in its latest report that homegrown extremists pose a greater threat to national security than that posed by terrorists jailed in Syria and Iraq if repatriated.
Leaving imprisoned Daesh fighters and children born into the group ”stateless”, it argues, almost guarantees that these individuals will have no other option but to consider themselves citizens of the self-declared Islamic State.
According to the Centre, people like British-born Shamima Begum, who joined Daesh as a teenager in 2015 should be taken back to the UK. Dubbed a “Daesh bride” for having left Britain and marrying a member of the terror group, Begum lost the first stage of her court appeal against the Home Office’s decision to strip her of British citizenship.
The Court of Appeal ruled earlier this month, though, that the now 20 year old could not be deprived of her British citizenship while she is in a detention camp in northern Syria.
While Begum’s case is the most high-profile, dozens of European citizens face the same predicament. The Soufan Centre report — Will Western Nations Repatriate Their Citizens in Syria and Iraq? — argues that Begum and others should be allowed to return.
“More often than not,” it explains, “those who do return to their countries of origin after leaving the caliphate look back upon [Daesh] with a combination of despair and disillusionment.”
The report concludes that, “The threat posed by those who never left, and thus never experienced the horrors of the caliphate, could be more significant than from those who left home to fight with [Daesh] before returning home.”
In its advice to European governments, the Centre warns that, “Leaving one’s citizens as ‘stateless’ almost guarantees that these individuals will have no other options but to consider themselves citizens of the Islamic State… Western nations should strongly reconsider their stance on repatriation and, despite the challenges involved, bring home their citizens to break the cycle of extremism and radicalisation and demonstrate their commitment to justice.”