09:29 GMT25 October 2020
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    It is still baffling trying to work out why thousands of Western nationals, including those who didn’t profess Islam, opted to quit jobs, abandon their family and join Daesh*, the most brutal terrorist group in modern history. However, even more baffling for the countries whose inhabitants made this choice is – what to do with those who returned.

    A German-Tunisian woman was sentenced to three years and six months in jail for joining the Daesh* terrorist group. Omaima A. was also found guilty of possessing illegal firearms, neglecting her duties as a mother, and aiding and abetting slavery.

    Omaima was born in Hamburg in 1984 and she married Nader Hadra, who was acquainted with Germany’s most prominent extremists. In 2015 Nader decided to join Daesh and travelled to Syria. Omaima followed him, taking their three children. After Nader was killed fighting for the terrorist group, she received the so-called martyrdom compensation and later married Denis Cuspert, a German-Ghanaian rapper, who joined Daesh.
    Cuspert was one of the most prominent westerners fighting for Daesh, and frequently appeared in the group’s propaganda videos including one where he was seen holding a man’s severed head. He met the same fate as Nader, dying in a battle in 2018 in the Syrian city Kobane.

    Omaima is said to have left him shortly after marriage and reportedly returned to Germany in 2016, where she lived a quiet life. This could have been the end of Omaima's story had the war correspondent Jenan Moussa not found her phone in Syria.

    The phone reportedly contained 36 gigabytes of data documenting her life under the rule of the most brutal terrorist group in modern history. Omaima was pictured with a Kalashnikov rifle and her children are seen playing with guns and Daesh flags. Some documents suggested that she might have been involved in fundraising for Islamists.

    It is unclear whether Omaima lost her phone in Syria or deliberately left it behind to begin a new life in Germany. After Moussa broke the story in 2019, German authorities arrested Omaima.

    Court documents say she kept a 13-year-old Yazidi girl as a slave.

    Repatriate or Abandon?

    Western countries are faced with a daunting dilemma – what to do with their thousands of citizens who joined Daesh who then returned home. The task seems even more daunting when it comes to women, who say they were forced or duped by their husbands to join the terrorist group. Five arrest warrants were issued against female returnees in Germany. Only two cases led to criminal proceedings.

    The issue has polarized society and politicians: One side says the returnees and people who are now in prison camps in Iraq and Syria, should be tried in their home country and enrolled in local deradicalisation programmes. The other side says people who joined Daesh acquired skills and connections and that at best they should be jailed, but more preferably should be stripped of their citizenship and tried in the country they've chosen, meaning Iraq and Syria.

    *Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a number of other countries.

    terrorism, Syria, deradicalization, Daesh, Germany
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