Sweden said it's prepared to integrate the Islamists back into society, which would include setting up a psychological helpline; 150 militants have already returned to Sweden.
Denmark's Michael Aastrup Jensen, a foreign policy spokesman for the ruling Venstre party, said, "these are some of the most dangerous people on Earth and we are not going to have them back". In the past years, some 150 Danish citizens have gone to fight Syria.
Radio Sputnik discussed Donald Trump's call for Europe to take back more than 800 Daesh* fighters with Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies at Charles Sturt University.
Sputnik: What are the chances that the other European countries will take their citizens back from Syria? I don't know if you've noticed, it's very interesting, the three countries that were mentioned there, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, all have different points of view with regard to these ISIS fighters. What's your take on it?
Mehmet Ozalp: Well they are in a predicament, aren't they? On the one hand, they are citizens of these countries, most of them, perhaps, were born in those countries and they want to go back. Technically they could go back, however, at the same time, they're hardline, battle hardened jihadists, people who have killed others or are prepared to kill. They have overcome that physiological barrier of killing, and they are returning back to these countries and they don't know what to do with them. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
Sputnik: Absolutely. Now we've also got this recent story that's making headlines in the UK regarding the teen girl, I think she's 19, who's had a baby — Shamima Begum — who's made headlines recently. I think she had an interview on Sky TV over the weekend that caused a lot of debate within the United Kingdom, prompting fresh debate on how to deal with citizens who went to join Daesh and now want to leave Syria. Who is responsible for the families of these fighters, namely their wives and children, and what is going to happen to them?
Mehmet Ozalp: The matter has to be looked at from two angles. I think when you look at the radicalised Muslims, what we find is that there are ideologues and there are people who have the ideology and who would be prepared to recruit others and become leaders in a sense. And then there are the followers. So it would be good to distinguish between those who are followers and those who are ideologues or the leaders of this movements and deal with them separately.
There could be a chance for the followers to be redeemed or corrected over time. And then there are the families, of course, and the families, women and children, are involved and they should be looked at from a humanitarian perspective, very carefully of course, but we do have a humanitarian situation at this point in time. I don't think it would be useful to put everybody in the same basket, just because they come from ISIS or something affiliated with ISIS, but certainly there would be some people who would be regretting. They were promised a dream, a paradise on Earth, an Islamic State that would solve the problems and end the suffering of the Muslims in the Middle East. They believed in that, but they now see that it was all false.
I actually predicted that ISIS would end within five years and it is sort of collapsing as a political entity in just short of five years. So that was quite predictable, but these people have followed an adventure and a dream, and now they're going through a trauma. I would agree with Norway or Sweden, as you mentioned, that they should go through some sort of psychological treatment as well.
Sputnik: Some people could say that the West is a victim of their own circumstances in terms of what happened in the Middle East in the early 2000s and then creating a vacuum after the exploits of the USA in the likes of Iraq and Libya, of course. How likely are these citizens to want to come back? You mentioned that some have probably been let down in terms of what they were promised, in terms of this overall mission of paradise on Earth, as you put it, but maybe some of them feel that they don't want to return to their own country. So is it really possible for them to adapt back to a Westernised culture of living in these European countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark after the experience they've had with ISIS?
Mehmet Ozalp: Obviously, some of them will want to return and some will never be able to return, but I personally think that there would be a group of, as I would say, the followers or people who are really disappointed deeply and they would really look for a place where they can really redeem themselves and come back to reality. I'm not saying all of them, don't get me wrong, but everybody should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
They believe that without the Russian support, the Assad regime wouldn't have survived and, therefore, you wouldn't have had a Civil War or it would have been short, and then you wouldn't get ISIS. So we never know, obviously, there are players, geopolitical players like the United States and Russia, and regional players like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Then there are groups within Syria; it's a multi-layered, complex problem that produced ISIS, and they had a very successful marketing campaign to tell disenfranchisedMuslims around the world that they could make a difference, they could change something that they deeply care about in the Middle East, end some sort of human suffering. It was that narrative and propaganda that attracted these people. I don't think these people are evil by nature, they've been radicalised and they believe in an ideology, and once that belief collapses, it creates a huge gap in their psychology and their mind that they need help.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.