According to the German Foreign Ministry, the country’s government has brought back the first children of German Daesh* followers from Iraq. According to the German news agency DPA, several underage children have been brought back and placed with relatives. The German government announced that it is going to bring these children, sometimes referred to “cubs of the caliphate”, to their parents’ home country at the end of 2017.
The Foreign Ministry declined to provide any further details on the matter, other than that it was a "high single-digit number" of returned children who had been brought from Iraq.
The most recent group of returnees reportedly includes a woman who fled Syria and landed at Stuttgart airport with her three children. Upon her arrival, she was immediately arrested over allegations of aggravated child abduction, the office of Dusseldorf’s attorney general stated. The 32-year-old German woman from Essen, who has been red-flagged as a threat since at least 2017, went to Syria in autumn of 2015 with her three children against the wishes of the father. One of her kids died abroad, but she bore another child there.
The DPA reports that in November 2017, there was information that there were about a dozen children and toddlers in Iraq, whose parents had come from Germany and supported Daesh*. It was decided to bring these children to Germany on humanitarian grounds as the government had to act in accordance with the obligation to protect its own citizens. The children were either abducted and brought by their parents to Iraq or were born in the country. The children’s mothers, on the other hand, could be detained for being Daesh* members, according to the media.
The Foreign Ministry informed that eight German citizens are currently being held in Iraqi custody for colluding with Daesh*, in accordance with decisions of local courts. However, none of the sentences are final, as the German outlet Tagesschau points out. The broadcaster ARD has reported about several cases where the rulings of Iraqi courts are being disputed. For example, one such German, Levent Ö., was sentenced to death in Iraq, but the German government began negotiations last December.
At the same time, 31-year-old Fatima M. returned to Germany in February after one year in prison, but she is being investigated for suspected involvement in possible war crimes.
There are also ongoing debates about how to deal with German citizens who joined Daesh. While Germany’s government was in agreement that citizens with dual nationality should be deprived of their German passports under certain conditions if they become members of terrorist groups, some opposition parties have accused the government of trying to escape the responsibility of having suspected Daesh members put on trial.
This issue is not exclusively German either, as countries both in Europe and elsewhere are facing the same challenge, debating about how to deal with Daesh returnees of their own. The question is on the agenda of today’s meeting of G7 interior ministers, who are gathering in Paris.