On Sunday, Germany’s foreign office has confirmed the repatriation of a number of so called Islamic State (IS) brides from Syria to Germany, together with their children. Three women, all German citizens, and 12 children, have been flown back on a charter plane. It is understood that some of the children are that of the repatriated females while others are orphans. They have been kept in special refugee camps for IS terrorists and their family members in an area under Kurdish control. Another group of individuals thought to be women and children have been flown to Finland. They are only the first group of IS volunteers and their children to be flown to Germany, while there is reportedly 100 other individuals with German nationality remaining in Kurdish camps. They are also likely to benefit from the German foreign office’s initiative to get their citizens, who have joined foreign terrorist groups, back to the country. One of the women flown back to Germany was Leonora M., originally from Saxony-Anhalt, who was arrested on arrival and brought before an investigating judge at the Federal Court of Justice.
The other two women, Merve A. from Hamburg and Yasmin A. from Bonn, are also under investigation. The arrest warrant against Leonora M. was issued in May 2020. She had travelled secretly to Syria in 2015 and was married to an Islamic State secret service employee with whom she had two children. She is thought to have kept a Yazidi woman as a slave, whom she later sold. She is accused by federal prosecutors of membership in a terrorist organization as well as aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo Islamic State group militants took this photo of Yazidi girl Nazdar Murat, as part of a database the militants have put together of Yazidi girls and women they have enslaved, shown in this May 18, 2016, photo taken during an interview with her family at Kankhe Camp for the internally displaced in Dahuk, northern Iraq. Foreign Secretary Heiko Maas (SPD) is thought to have played a pivotal role in the decision to repatriate former IS volunteers to Germany and in negotiating their release with the Kurds. “I am very relieved that yesterday we were able to bring another twelve children and three associated mothers back from camps in Northeast Syria. This good news shortly before Christmas makes us confident that we will be able to facilitate a return in further cases. Yesterday’s return campaign was an act of strength that was preceded by months of intensive preparation,” claimed Maas.
According to German law, the country is obliged to take back its citizens, and citizenship in general cannot be withdrawn. However, there are two exceptions to this legislation. One exception is when a person joins a foreign military and the other is when an individual takes part in hostilities as a member of a terrorist group (Citizenship Act, Section 28). On the other hand, Germany is not permitted to make a person stateless as a result of the withdrawal of their citizenship, in such cases Germany would be obliged to obtain a promise from another state for their naturalization. It is unclear whether Secretary Maas had exhausted the above options before returning these former members of Islamic State to Germany, but it is highly unlikely that such efforts were on the agenda. Although the return of these former members of a terror group has been widely reported in German media, virtually no journalist had ventured out to analyze the financial costs of these repatriations for the German taxpayer during a major recession, nor the potential security risks that these individuals may pose for wider society. However, according to a commenter in one of the last remaining German independent media outlets critical of the government, “Neither the government nor the EU are working in the interests of Europeans. What is happening here is criminal to say the least. It is a violation of international law, and being performed against the will of the indigenous people. It amounts to the relocation of entire peoples to the territory of others, with state authorities and the secret services always threatening in the background, and NGOs tolerating all this in the foreground until this becomes no longer accepted by the majority.” Another reader reflecting on the return of terror suspects, commenting in the same place: “German terrorists can be brought back from Syria, but Syrian terrorists cannot be deported from Germany to Syria. Great government!”