PARIS – Some 10 French women who joined the Islamic State and are now being held in Syrian detention camps went on a hunger strike on Saturday after the government refused to bring them home for a hearing.
The women include dozens of French mothers and their 200 or more children who have been detained by the Kurdish army in scattered camps for at least two years, and are in a state of legal limbo.
“We decided to stop feeding ourselves until we found the right people to get answers about our future, regardless of the risks,” one woman said in a voice message obtained by The New York Times.
Two French lawyers representing women a Statement Published Sunday evening.
At least since 2019, when the Islamic State is losing its final foothold in Syria, about 60,000 relatives of Islamic fighters, mostly women and children, have been trapped in ominous, diseased detention camps run by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria. No clarity. The future of vision.
France, along with other Western countries where citizens have been detained, has resisted calls by families and rights groups to return its people, and has brought back only a few children.
France, a country plagued by years of Islamist terrorist attacks across the country, has long been a sensitive issue for returnees to quit jihad. But the hunger strike, along with a recent initiative by French legislators and citizens, could put pressure on the government to take action in the face of the deteriorating situation.
UN human rights experts last week urged 57 states, including France, that the “continued detention of women and children in camps” is a matter of grave concern and undermines the progress of accountability, truth and justice. “
France has long argued that adults who joined the Islamic State, including women, should be prosecuted where they committed their crimes: in Syria and Iraq. Some men have already been tried and sentenced in Iraqi courts.
But trying the women has so far proved impossible because their potential crimes are unclear and because the Kurdish administration that keeps them in detention is not internationally recognized. The Kurdish forces running the camps called for the repatriation of all foreigners and said they could not keep them in the volatile region indefinitely.
The women on hunger strike say they want to take the case to France.
In a fox message, a hunger striker said, “We’re there in the winter, in the tent, waiting, in the tent.”
He said: “We want to pay our debt to the society for choosing to come here. But it is time to end this nightmare and go home. ”
The New York Times received several voice messages from the women but they are not releasing their names as they have received death threats from Islamic State supporters who oppose the desire to return to France.
Countries such as Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have each returned more than 100 of their citizens, much more than Western countries where there is public opinion against bringing them home where they have yet to fight the Islamic State.
Rights groups have urged governments to at least bring the children of their citizens home, arguing that minors did not choose to go to Syria and that the situation would escalate after raising them in camps that have become hotbeds of Islamist extremism.
But France has only agreed to send children back on a case-by-case basis, giving priority to orphans and vulnerable children whose mothers have agreed to let them go. To date, 35 children have been brought back, including a 7-year-old girl suffering from a heart defect, who was brought to France in April for immediate medical care.
In the current French political climate, desi returns could prove even more plentiful. In the fall, the country suffered several Islamist terrorist attacks that reopened old wounds. A draft law aimed at fighting Islamism is expected to receive final approval in the French Senate next month.
Families of relatives trapped in Syrian camps and rights groups have long condemned the piecemeal homeland process. In northern France, the mother of a French woman detained in Syria to protest France’s policy has been on a hunger strike since February 1.
In the public letter, a The French legislator recently condemned the terms of the camps and the government’s reluctance to act, calling them “inhumane and irresponsible political cowardice”.
“If, because of our inertia, we continue to support the government’s guilty silence,” the letter said, “we would be legislators who let innocent children die.”
A spokesman for France’s foreign ministry, which oversees the repatriation process, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The women’s lawyers on the hunger strike, Mary Dos and Ludovic Riviar, said in a statement that the women should be tried in France, and that “more than two years” they have been waiting to be paid for what they are. ”
In a voice message, one woman said she “now needs a helping hand from our country.”
The trial in France, he said, would be a “second chance”.