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Issues of ISIS Prisoners & Repatriations in a Time of COVID

Chat Log:

11:29:44  From Tahir B : What was going through your head when you met Ms Begum

1. Pulitzer prize winning story

2. Child Abuse Victim

11:30:31  From Kamalle Dabboussy : I have a problem with a statement of taking a child away from the mother.

11:31:14  From Maya Foa (Reprieve) : Agreed

11:32:37  From Tannuva Akbar : what is your opinion on Bangladesh govt’s response to Shamima Begum’s citizenship?

11:32:41  From Peter Galbraith : when I was last at the intra Kurdish border on November 21, British diplomats were there escorting three terrified children into Iraqi Kurdistan.

11:32:51  From Barb Met : Yes, but if that’s the only way to save the child and keep him safe until his mother’s case could be resolved…? 

11:33:17  From W. Ansari : I believe Shamima Begum consented on taking the child away?

11:33:18  From Anne Speckhard : we will address these questions in a few minutes keep them coming… :)

11:34:02  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : In general the ‘Kurds’ also oppose taking away kids from their mothers. Those terrified children were orphans right?

11:34:05  From harjit.sandhu : Very tricky issue either way.

11:35:02  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : Is there any case of non orphan children being taken away from their mothers and going back to their native countries. I haven’t heard such a case so far.

11:35:03  From Tahir B : Did you have editorial control of story and the negative way it was communicated to public by the Times Newspaper. ?

11:35:08  From Zora A. Sukabdi : This is a very valuable event. Thank you, Anne, for hosting this and inviting us. 

11:35:26  From Anne Speckhard : thank you!

11:35:47  From Farzana Islam : Begum was effectively left stateless, as she had not “activated” her right to Bangladeshi citizenship. 

11:36:04  From Peter Galbraith : wladimir, there is a case of a government agreeing to take a non orphan being sent with consent of her mother

11:36:46  From Wahiduzzaman Noor : Here is a question of “activation” of Bangladeshi citizenship. 

I hope we can discuss about this also

11:37:42  From Jessica Ewart : Do you feel that the publication of the story of Shamima Begum and, the negative public reaction became a heavy influence to how the government reacted? (Do you feel the government would have actually

11:37:47  From Hamid : what if any involvement would you see for child protection agencies when considering repatriation.

11:38:14  From Barb Met : Great question. Anthony Lloyd I would also like to know the answer to that question. What would you have done differently (if anything) with hindsight?

11:38:15  From Jessica Ewart : handled it differently if there was no moral panic

11:38:42  From jamie roberts : Excellent fart metaphor

11:39:10  From W. Ansari : She was UK born. Parents were from Bangladesh. How does Bangladeshi citizenship get activated in that case?

11:39:57  From Anne Craanen : I have to leave before 17:00 here, will the full webinar be on youtube?

11:40:10  From TBaghirova : i wonder if cases of children lured into Isil have been looked at from human trafficking perspective by journalists and also by legal practitioners. While counter- terrorism framework is nascent in defininng the “victim”, anti-trafficking legal regime is well developed which could be explored to find a solution for especially children involvement with ISIL. (would appreciate to get the opinion of Anthony Loyd and Tasnime Akunjee and others of course)

11:40:19  From Anne Speckhard : yes we are recording and it will be on our website and youtube channel :)

11:40:33  From Anne Craanen : Perfect, thank you very much!

11:41:16  From Hamid : are there any international diplomatic agreements between different countries to facilitate the repatriation of children.

11:41:24  From harjit.sandhu : Thanks Anne. Recording will be very handy!

11:41:28  From Camilla : Great question, TB. I’d be very interested to know.

11:44:47  From Kashka HUYTON : 50% of children in NES camps are under 5 born into radicalised parents, 90% are under 12

11:45:16  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : Clearly legalities and ethical morality are complete and separate issues viewed by humanity and legal entities. With empathy for a teenager and her choices, I would ask panelists to address choice & accountability.  1. What accountability for Shamima and other foreign fighters would be appropriate and effective?  2.  What policy would protect the innocent (such as the child)? 3.  What international law would be equitable for the parties affected? 4.  Recognizing the impact of political posturing, what steps would you recommend going forth to better prepare against this phenomenon for individuals, governments, and threats against security?  5. What metrics would you use to measure “success”?

11:45:39  From Frances Nguyen : So, in the middle of this process, she’s still stateless?

11:47:14  From Lorenza Bacino : Apparently so Frances, she is stateless

11:47:30  From Maya . : As I understand it, Bangladesh confers citizenship by birth to children born to Bangladeshi nationals and allows dual citizenship under certain limited circumstances. Shamima Begum is a British national and had not applied for the Dual Nationality Certificate allowing her to legally claim citizenship or dual citizenship of UK and Bangladesh.  When she left for Syria she was only acknowledged as a British citizen and once she’d made contact with Daesh, she could no longer be considered eligible for citizenship of Bangladesh, owing to her ‘links with a terrorist organisation,’ resulting in her being unable to pass the ‘good character’ test. Since her British citizenship was later withdrawn with the knowledge that she had been in contact with Daesh and (in my opinion) the Foreign Office should have known that Bangladesh could not accept any application from her for citizenship or naturalisation, it appears the British government has tried to force a ‘loophole’ in Bangladesh’s citizenship legislation.

11:48:26  From Hamid : what measures of collaboration between courts, intelligence, federal & local police would be needed to ensure that repatriation is done with minimal negative effects on the children?

11:49:36  From Jessica Ewart : I strongly agree with your ‘loophole’ point Maya

11:49:39  From FARHOUC : Will a recording of this be avaialble on youtube for sharing with colleagues. 

11:51:50  From Maji Peterx : I have a question  please

11:52:59  From Anne Speckhard : our event goes till 12:30 so there’s time for more questions :)

11:53:06  From Anne Speckhard : we have three lined up next already

11:53:56  From Tasnime Akunjee :

11:54:23  From Tasnime Akunjee : addressing the issue of traficking 

11:54:47  From TBaghirova : thank you. will read it now

11:54:54  From Anne Speckhard : yes we are recording and it will be on our website

11:55:00  From jeffreyallan : Can any of the panelists shed further light on the transfer of camp detainees from N. Syria to Iraq for trial there?  Under what circumstances would this be legal?

11:55:01  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : There was article in New York Times recently that showed that Pentagon pays some money to prisons

11:56:07  From Rod D-M : It appears that Shamima may have been suffering from cognitive dissonance – something commonly observed by psychologists in the case of people who have been indoctrinated – where there are contradictory beliefs held together in stasis psychologically and with an effect in terms of stress and anxiety – hence the ‘paradox’ which Anthony described when he interviewed her – I am interested in Anthony’s and Tasnine’s view about this. Thanks so much.

11:57:06  From Frances Nguyen : Can the panelists articulate how COVID-19 has complicated repatriation and security in the camps at this time? There’s of course the obvious health crisis within the camps and the shift of priority/attention, but I’d like to hear from them if there are other complications/effects

11:57:14  From Rod D-M : Tasnime I apologise for the misspelling.

11:58:46  From FARHOUC : Under UK law isn’t it easier to have repatriated orphans than a baby who has a living parent? Did they argue this was more complicated because of consent etc? 

11:59:01  From Pallavi Ade : Can we get a copy of the questions and comments in the chat session? Some very insightful comments here 

11:59:09  From Anne Speckhard : sure

11:59:19  From TBaghirova : yes, trafficking for forced criminality is very narrowly interpreted to drugs and petty crimes like theft

11:59:23  From Lorenza Bacino : You can save the chat I think, using the 3 dots above

11:59:41  From Pallavi Ade : Thanks Lorenza and Anne

11:59:49  From Lorenza Bacino : ;)

12:00:06  From Lorenza Bacino : It goes into Finder if you have a mac

12:00:09  From wladimirvanwilgenburg :

12:00:12  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : Defense Department is paying the Syrian Democratic Forces between $500,000 and $1 million in stipends for guard salaries and other costs

12:00:57  From Hina A : Great observation about cognitive dissonance there Rod D-M – the paradox to her character and views would be interesting to look at through a psychological perspective 

12:01:00  From Kamalle Dabboussy : I believe the legal framework to support repatriation exists and is well defined.  Whether it be criminal, child support, child trafficking etc.  The issue is of political will, to apply due process

12:01:50  From Pallavi Ade : The case of Shamima Begum has gained press and could see some positive result because of that. What about the many other cases where individuals don’t have the spotlight on them? How is their case lobbied for repatriation and rehabilition? 

12:02:42  From TBaghirova : thanks Tasnime. 

12:02:51  From Wahiduzzaman Noor : Can you please give some insight on how  the trial process of the repatriatees (if that happens) would take place? Given the differences in domestic laws in various countries, for some countries , for instance Bangladesh, it may not be possible to try them at all.  

12:04:29  From Peter Galbraith : if you jail the mother in the west, the children generally do not go to jail with the mother.

12:04:50  From Jessica Ewart : Link to Pallavi Ade’s point, do you feel that ‘trial by media’ has become a positive or negative attribute in court/ legal issues

12:05:15  From TBaghirova : thanks Anne and all speakers for the interesting discussion. I ll listen to the rest of the webinar on youtube. I am Tarana Baghirova from the OSCE Office of the Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. 

12:05:43  From Riyadh Shammo : What about Yazidi persons who have been brainwashed by ISIS families in the camp? Is there any step to help reintegrate them into the Yazidi community?

12:08:27  From nylanan : Actually there are quite a few orphans repatriated  to european countires.   

12:09:01  From Ruby Kholifah AMAN : It is great discussion. But i have to leave. Anne, i hope you can share the recording.

12:09:01  From Peter Galbraith : the kurds remove the Yazidi women when they are identified. some may not identify themselves as Yazidi for fear of losing their child or because they now identify as Muslim. (Stockholm syndrome)

12:09:22  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : How would you mitigate against exploitation of those rights? Whose rights should trump? The child or the parent?

12:09:49  From Hamid : it is a shame that governments have taken the easy option of turning difficult citizens into former citizens- give the problem to someone else especially if they are racialized

12:10:18  From Peter Galbraith : lisa, you are right. The standard in the Convention id

12:10:58  From Rod D-M : I am glad that Peter Galbraith has mentioned Stockholm Syndrome which is highly relevant – totalistic identity or thought reform are other ways of describing this psychologically.

12:11:09  From Tannuva Akbar : what kind of precedence does this case set for future cases and should this be a case by case basis? Secondly, cases such as this will only fuel the fire for ISIS to run future propaganda.

12:11:29  From Peter Galbraith : The standard in the Convention is the best interests of the child and that may not always be for the child to stay with a terrorist mother

12:11:58  From Anne Speckhard : thanks Peter true

12:12:02  From Riyadh Shammo : Thanks Peter for your answer. This means that those who do not identify themselves as Yazidis anymore (Stockholm syndrome) will not be back. Then, I think there is a huge issue in this regard. 

12:12:22  From Rod D-M : Another relevant psychological term is trauma coerced attachment which is recognised in trafficking cases and should be in this and other cases like it.

12:12:34  From Maya . : That’s why the British govt wouldn’t bring back Shamima’s baby. Because the child would have the right to have his mother with him.

12:12:48  From Maya . : Oh. Tasnime said that.

12:13:13  From Hamid : if she was called Samantha Smith she would never had her citizenship stripped

12:13:42  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : The world at large is desensitized.

12:14:15  From Frances Nguyen : I know Tasnime touched on this briefly talking about national security via public opinion, but I would love to hear the panelists talk about the branding of Shamima Begum as more of a threat as a Muslim woman visible to media than actual combatants, who have been repatriated and tried in their home countries

12:14:56  From Peter Galbraith : There are 44 children of raped Yazidi women in an orphanage near Derrick. The Yazidis agreed to accept back the mothers but not their children. These children all under 5 and need our support.

12:15:07  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : Advocacy for individual choice and accountability. Speak on Anthony!

12:15:42  From Hamid : can we address the issue of racism as it pertain to the political decision ?

12:17:26  From Tahir B : Anthony, do you and your editor have a duty of care as a journalist to protect her as a victim of child abuse / grooming. 

12:17:56  From Maya . : The issue of racism may well be relevant to Shamima Begum’s decision. Had she faced additional abuse as a result of what was being shown in the news at the time? Did she feel ‘pushed away?’

12:18:04  From Camilla : This highlights the tremendous power and responsibility of a journalist in such a situation as this.

12:18:44  From Barbara : Tahir B, the problem was that after she was “found”, she wasn’t considered to have been groomed or abused  

12:20:27  From Bakai : Given the fact that she was aware of the implications of joining ISIS on her citizenship. Can we say she can be held accountable for her choices, especially having in mind that since 2015 we have experienced a number of incidences. What would be the best approach of handling the matter?

12:21:16  From Lorenza Bacino : Totally agree with the fake news issue

12:21:26  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : This is why critical analysis and self reflection are necesssary. We need more people to consider the spectrum of information. Susceptibility to radicalization exists for everyone. 

12:23:05  From Maya . : I don’t watch beheading videos. I have seen some horrific violence in real life. Do you think that children who have watched that kind of atrocity on a video would be desensitised to seeing it in real life?

12:23:46  From Natasha Shawarib MercyCorps : we can’t blame the victims while super powers that created ISIS are left without being held accountable 

12:24:13  From Barbara : Exactly 

12:24:25  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : which super powers you are talking about? ISIS was created by ISIS

12:26:00  From Hamid : we must demand equity in applications of the law

12:26:02  From Khadidjatou  : The question of “returnee or defector” as raised in several reports and articles requires thorough investigation and follow up

12:26:43  From Maji Peterx : Thank you for putting this together, it was worth it

12:27:21  From Barbara : Can you end with letting us know where the plight of Shamima Begum and others now stand? 

12:27:28  From Farzana Islam : Powerful point, Anthony

12:27:35  From Camilla : Thanks a million for offering this, Anne. A great contribution!

12:27:41  From John Mooney : This has been an excellent presentation. I learned a lot on this case. Well done to all.

12:28:26  From W. Ansari : Thank you Anne. Excellent discussions!

12:28:41  From Veronica : thank you organizers, wonderful presentations and discussion

12:28:53  From Farzana Islam : Superb discussion, thanks all.

12:29:07  From Rod D-M : Many thanks Anne, Anthony and Tasnime and all involved in putting this together!

12:29:07  From Lorenza Bacino : thank you

12:29:12  From Peter Galbraith : excellent. thank you.

12:29:14  From Maya . : Thank you, everyone.

12:29:18  From giorgiatiscini : thank you organizers, wonderful presentations and discussion

12:29:23  From Hala : Moral courage should be shown in the face of public anxiety and political pressure. The Geneva Conventions leave no-one outside the boundaries of the law. We need to treat everyone humanely.

12:29:24  From wladimirvanwilgenburg : Thanks a lot. Great event.

12:29:26  From Jessica Ewart : Thank you!

12:29:28  From ICSVE : If you missed the beginning of the conversation, you can watch it fully here:

12:29:30  From harjit.sandhu : Thank you Anne, thank you organizers and thank you to speakers. A great event!

12:29:32  From FARHOUC : Thank you again for organizing. How do we register for June 10 and June 24 please?

12:29:37  From Zora A. Sukabdi : Thank you!

12:29:48  From detlevq : Thank you , very informative

12:29:56  From Tannuva Akbar : thank you all! 

12:29:57  From Hamid : This reminds me of the Canadian Khadir,s case

12:30:06  From Hamid : thank you

12:30:17  From Figen Murray : thank you for this brilliant discussion

12:30:25  From ICSVE : Please sign up to our mailing list for future events:

12:30:26  From Dr. Lisa McConnell : Fantastic presentation. Well done.

12:30:29  From Khadidjatou  : Thanks everyone for the great presentation and discussion. Hope to see you in the upcoming events. Have a nice evening!

12:30:32  From Hina A : Fantastic presentation – thank you for putting this together

12:30:32  From Beatrice Eriksson : Thank you Anne, and everyone involved in organizing this. I am already looking forward to the next session.

12:30:37  From Tahir B : Thank you.

12:30:39  From Moussa / DERAD (Austria) : Thank you

12:30:44  From Maram : Many thanks 

12:30:46  From Dr. Zoe D. Fine : To organizers, speakers, and people who asked questions and engaged in the chat: thank you! This was a fantastic event!

12:30:47  From Salim Mohamed Nasir : Excellent stuff. Thank you very much.

12:30:51  From W. Ansari : Thank you

12:30:52  From Louise PyneJones : Thank you for a great discussion.

About this Event

Have you ever wondered what happened to Shamima Begum and the Bethnal Green school girls who left their homes in the UK, traveling through Turkey to join ISIS? Shamima Begum was 15 when she left home and was 19 when she was found in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) run Camp Hol by UK journalist Anthony Loyd of the The Times. While many at first felt sympathy for girls like Shamima, and minors and girls from the West in particular, who were tricked by ISIS to believe they were joining an Islamic utopia, public opinion quickly shifted in her case. After admitting to Anthony that seeing severed heads in trash cans was not shocking to her—as she had likely acclimated to the brutal conflict zone in which she lived—and that if ISIS didn’t punish such people, who knows what they would do to young women like herself—probably referring to the many rapes for which Syrian regime soldiers were known, many in the UK turned against her. Shamima’s citizenship has been stripped despite international law which makes it illegal to render a person stateless, with UK officials claiming she can take the citizenship of her father, who was born in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, meanwhile, points out that Shamima has never been to their country and they will not issue her citizenship. Her baby, who was born soon after arriving in the camp, was not repatriated to the UK. He died soon after due to the harsh conditions and likely malnutrition Shamima suffered while living under ISIS.

Shamima, like thousands of other Westerners, lives now in a legal limbo in an SDF detention camp while COVID-19 is looming on the horizon and one camp is already showing signs of mass illness spreading across the inmates.

This event was held May 27th and was the first in a biweekly series of ICSVE online events discussing the issues surrounding these ISIS men, women and children held by the SDF. You can watch the recording of it on our ICSVE Youtube channel (click above) and please join us for our upcoming events!

Tasnime Akunjee, Attorney for Shamima Begum’s family has traveled to SDF territory only to be briefly detained and told he could not see his client. He has been fighting the case of Shamima’s repatriation to the UK and will discuss the moral and legal issues regarding a minor joining a terrorist group, issues of detaining an individual without charges, stripping citizenship, and the cruelties involved in not bringing her infant back to the UK for life-saving medical care.

Anthony Loyd, Senior Journalist and War Correspondent for The Times began reporting for The Times during the Bosnian war in 1993 and has since then reported from a series of major conflict zones, including those in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. His work for The Times has been recognized with ten major press awards, including an Amnesty International award for his work in Syria in 2012 and the 2014 Bayeux Calvados award. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books, My War Gone By, I Miss It So and Another Bloody Love Letter. After discovering Shamima Begum in SDF Camp Hol, Anthony wrote about her in The Times sparking a huge controversy in the UK. He has since written an article about “the brutish incoherence of the UK’s response to her situation as much as the wretchedness of her individual case,” and reflecting on his own part in what happened.

Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of ICSVE has in-depth interviewed 239 ISIS prisoners, returnees and defectors and visited the detention camps in SDF territory, viewed the abysmal conditions under which children of ISIS mothers live, and collected reports of the ISIS enforcers whose brutality continues inside these camps. She has met Shamima twice in the camps and spoken with her briefly. Likewise, she has interviewed Jack Letts from the UK whose citizenship was also stripped despite his leaving for ISIS at age 19 after clearly spending his adolescence with a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Similarly Dr. Speckhard interviewed Irish Lisa Smith who escaped from Camp Ein Issa after the Turkish invasion in Fall 2019 and is now home with her child in Ireland. Dr. Speckhard will moderate the panel in a discussion addressing questions such as: Why did these and many other individuals join ISIS and what did they hope to achieve? How radicalized and dangerous do the women and children appear now? Do we have any indication of how radicalized and dangerous the men are? Under what mechanisms is the SDF holding them and for how long can they be held? Will an international tribunal be held in SDF territory or just local courts, and will Westerners by tried in Syria or in their home countries? What is the U.S. and EU countries positions on these issues and why don’t their countries take them back? If some were taken home, can they be prosecuted, or for those already prosecuted in absentia can they successfully evade imprisonment? What is a good model for considering repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration? Once home and in prison, can a terrorist ever be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society? How is COVID-19 complicating all of these issues?

Please join us for our first discussion on these issues to be followed by many more. The panel will each speak briefly and questions will be most welcome with a lively discussion to ensue!

This Zoom event was funded by the European Union’s Internal Security Fund – Police
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