‘Everyone deserves 2nd chance’: Germans say 16yo girl suspected of joining ISIS should return home

Residents of the hometown of a 16-year-old German girl who was detained in Iraq recently and is suspected of joining Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) say they are ready to welcome her back, adding that she deserves “a second chance.”

“The girl is 16 and got into this mess apparently at about 15, or 14 and a half, via the internet or whatever. I believe she should return. Everyone has a right to make a mistake and everyone should be given a second chance at least once,” Peter Haag told Ruptly video news agency. Haag is a resident of the German eastern town of Pulsnitz, where the girl, identified only as Linda W., lived before traveling to Iraq to join Islamic State.

“I imagine being her grandmother or great grandmother, and I find it terrible that a child goes down such a road. I hope she will be found and will live another life someday,” Erika Johne, another local resident, told Ruptly.

Some local residents even staged a small demonstration in front of the city hall in support of the girl. They also sought to draw attention to the lack of care and support for children that leaves them vulnerable to extremist propaganda.

The activists unfolded a large banner in front of the city hall that read: “Devotion, education, identity for our children instead of unfettered consumption and entertainment.” Another banner that was hung on a nearby fence read: “Devotion, education, identity: protect our children from extremism!”

“If one generalizes the case of Linda, one has to admit that young people in our country are not capable of defending themselves against extremist ideology anymore due to the a lack of personal experience and identity,” Carsten Meissner, one of the activists behind the demonstration, said. Meissner added that such situations particularly lead to cases in which “a 15-year-old is ready to fight in a so-called holy war.”

“I blame several social institutions, including the institutions of family, school and church, for Linda going down the wrong path,” he added.

Linda W. was detained by the Iraqi military in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul days after its liberation from Islamic State alongside 19 other women suspected of fighting for the terrorist group. Three Iraqi intelligence and investigative officials, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said she had worked with an Islamic State police department. She also married an IS fighter, according to the Iraqi officials.

Before fleeing to Iraq, Linda W. is said to have been in touch with IS members in online chatrooms.

On June 23, Linda W. gave an interview to an Iraqi TV reporter, who works together with the German NDR and WDR broadcasters as well as Suedeutsche Zeitung, and said that she “just wants to run away from war, from all these weapons and noise.”

She also said she misses her family and “wants to go home,” the ARD, a consortium of German public broadcasters that includes NDR and WDR, reports.

In the meantime, the German Foreign Ministry said that the teenager’s future is still unclear as there is no extradition agreement between Germany and Iraq. The two sides are now “discussing the possible cooperation options,” the ministry’s spokeswoman said on Monday.

If convicted on terrorist charges, she could face capital punishment in Iraq, according to Der Spiegel.

The girl is currently receiving consular assistance from the German embassy in Baghdad alongside three other German women who were detained in Mosul, the ministry said. The ministry confirmed on Tuesday that four women who were recently detained in Mosul, including Linda W., possess German citizenship.

The three other women are a mother and a daughter of Moroccan descent who lived in the city of Mannheim, and a Chechen-born woman from North Rhine Westphalia. The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office has opened criminal proceedings against all four women on suspicion of joining Islamic State and “plotting a grave criminal offense constituting a public danger.”