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Britain taking back ISIS kids doesn’t mean Shamima Begum will walk free & it might strike a blow against terrorism

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Britain taking back ISIS kids doesn’t mean Shamima Begum will walk free & it might strike a blow against terrorism
While the UK has agreed to allow a small group of children to return from Syrian internment camps where they were abandoned or orphaned, its confused policy over adult returnees might actually be making Islamic State stronger.

The UK government’s concession to allow the return of a handful of orphaned or abandoned children of British Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) jihadis in Syria should be the start of a wider approach that includes the return of all citizens – children and adults alike.

While many in the West believe the Kurdish internment camps in Syria are packed with hostile terrorists, waiting to be returned to their home countries to continue waging jihad, the majority of detainees are children.

At the largest camp, Al-Hol in north-eastern Syria, of the roughly 70,000 detainees, two-thirds are under the age of 12.

Through no fault of their own – these innocents were either taken to the region by their parents or were born there – these youngsters are forced to endure what the Red Cross describes as “apocalyptic” conditions, routinely dying of malnutrition and hypothermia.

And while education, medical care and trauma counselling are non-existent, extremist indoctrination is rife.

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In an open letter to Western governments from a group of US national security experts, it was said that the squalor of the camps has the added effect of fueling the narrative of “grievance and revenge” that has proven so successful for IS in recruiting followers. This means that the children growing up in these conditions under persistent indoctrination are understandably at risk of becoming radicalized and choosing a path of terrorism.

If the UK can identify children entitled to British nationality within these camps, it makes perfect sense to rescue them all from this bleak future before it is too late.

Because denying them citizenship to which they may be entitled not only undermines their ability to identify as British, as those security experts point out, it instills a sense of being a citizen of Islamic State, creating a core of support for the terrorist organization to draw from in the future. To ignore this reality is foolhardy.

While the repatriation of adults poses a different set of challenges, there are strong arguments for bringing them back to the UK now, when most of the detainees are grouped together in locations controlled by friendly nations.

By bringing them home, we would instantly reduce their ability to spread poison in the camps and they could be tried as the murderous criminals we see, not as the martyrs they claim to be.

Let’s show the world just how the UK can dispense justice, even in particularly trying circumstances.

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The deradicalization of others will provide a resource of credible role models to warn potential recruits of the misery that awaits them while innocent family members could be reintegrated into society, exposing as a lie the IS doctrine that the West has no place for true Muslims.

This would be a far more proactive approach to this incredibly complicated issue, rather than leaving men, women and children to die in misery thousands of miles from the land of their birth.

It would also avoid embarrassing situations like that arising from the UK government’s revocation of Shamima Begum’s citizenship, a case which is now heading to the Supreme Court.

Whether Begum will ever make it back to the UK to fight her cause remains unclear, but even if she doesn’t, the outcry she has caused in playing the system is unwelcome.

Playing politics with the life of a young girl, who left Britain at 15 with two of her pals, was married 10 days later and had three babies, all now dead, is not an edifying spectacle, no matter how hardened and unrepentant she appears.

No one says bringing home internment camp detainees is going to be easy but if Russia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and France can do it, then quite obviously, so can the UK.

After all, it is the right thing to do.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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