Willing terrorists or victims? Watch heated RT debate over stranded wives of ISIS fighters
As hundreds of wives and widows of supposed ISIS fighters and their children remain stranded in a secret camp in Iraq, commentators on RT clashed over how to treat them: as willing accomplices of terrorists or victims that need rehabilitation.
The women sheltered at the UN-sponsored camp, the location of which is not disclosed to protect them from possible retaliation, are foreigners in Iraq. They are mostly citizens of Turkey and Russia, and Central Asian and European nations, with the Iraqi authorities yet to decide what to do with them.
RT spoke to some of the women, who claim they came to Iraq willingly, but could not leave even when they wanted to. A political commentator for the New York Observer, Andre Walker, says that they de facto joined a terrorist organization and should be punished accordingly.
“These are people who are dangerous extremist terrorists. All of our countries should support Syria and Iraq in ensuring that these people are properly prosecuted and brought to justice. An in cases where they happen to make it back to countries like the United Kingdom, I hope we lock them up,” he said.
British political commentator Mo Ansar disagreed, saying that those women are “as [much] victims as anyone else” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
“Certainly the wives and children are innocent victims in this play,” he said. “The answer is not disenfranchising them and making them stateless. All that is going to do is increase the number of people who are going to be turning to terror as a way of retribution towards the West.”
He suggested that an appropriate vetting and monitoring program combined with an integration program would be sufficient to deal with the risk of importing extremists, along with women who genuinely want to start a new life.
“My view is that they don’t want terrorists in the United Kingdom and that they don’t want wives of terrorists in the United Kingdom,” Walker disagreed. “There is no ‘I only went to meet my husband’ argument. If you are a consenting adult and you went over to join Islamic State, you are a terrorist and you ought to face justice.”
Ansar pointed out that calling a person terrorist, under European law, requires evidence to support such an accusation.
“Our jurisprudence requires a standard of evidence. We need a burden of proof. We do not have clear evidence of what atrocities people have been involved in, what they’ve committed,” he said.
These people only have “suspected links” to IS (Islamic State, also known as ISIS/ISIL) fighters, Melany Markham, Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) media coordinator in Iraq, said. She pointed out that everyone is presumed innocent unless they are convicted of a crime.
“Two-thirds of the group are children, they won’t be found guilty of any crime,” she told RT. “There is no crime in being married to someone who committed a crime and there is no crime in being the child of a criminal."
Religion is not a crime, Markham said, adding that a lot of the women stranded in the camp said they wanted “to practice Islam in the Islamic State which in itself is not a crime.”
Watch the video of the entire heated debate.