As ISIS continues to fall apart under the combined strength of the American military, NATO forces, Kurdish militias, Syrian soldiers, and Russian forces, these military forces are taking prisoners at a record rate. And thanks to the strangely alluring nature of a life as a jihadist to some Europeans, this means that foreign military forces are holding European jihadis as prisoners of war, awaiting an opportunity to mete out justice to their prisoners in whatever form it might take.
Six families in France are suing the French government, demanding that they do something to retrieve their relatives from the Kurdish militias that are currently holding them in Syria. The suit claims that the French government has not made, and continues to not make, any effort to retrieve French citizens held by the Kurdish militias.
The complaint says that there is “deliberate inertia” on the part of the French government to retrieve the jihadis from the care of their Kurdish captors, continuing on to say that the inaction by the French government puts mothers and children at risk by leaving them in an active war zone (which those captives traveled to in order to assist the Islamic State).
However, the French military chief, Florence Parly, seems to have a different take on the situation, and one that seems to be much more sane than the demands of families that the French government bend over backward to recover their would-be terrorist relatives from the hands of the Kurds. In short, Florence Parly sees no reason to work to return the jihadis to the United States, and she pointed out that only 20 were returned to France in the last year, while Belgium retrieved only FIVE of their nation’s foreign fighters from the Kurds.
In a statement, Florence Parly said that the “pseudo-Caliphate no longer controls territory, but this terrorist movement will without a doubt pursue its goals clandestinely.” She continued on to say that for those French citizens “who are detained in the Levant, I remind you that these people took the initiative to join a terrorist organization that was engaged in combat in that zone, and that committed and continues to seek to commit attacks in France.”
The renewed calls by these families for the French government to retrieve their relatives were prompted by videos which appeared last week, showing French detainees Thomas Barnouin and Emilie Konig stating that they are being well treated by their Kurdish captors. The videos were likely produced by the Kurdish militia to counter claims (mostly by pro-ISIS sources).
Emilie Konig, in particular, has a long history of trying to help jihadists. She repeatedly appeared throughout France in a ‘provocative’ full-body niqab, attempting to rally Muslims to the ISIS cause and talking about how the niqab, which covers every part of a Muslim woman from being seen by the public except for her eyes, was like a ‘second skin’ to her. In 2012, she left France to join ISIS in Syria, and helped film two propaganda videos for the terrorist group.
She also called for French citizens to attack France, as well as being listed as a ‘key recruiter’ for the Islamic State by many organizations, including the United States government and the United Nations. Yet according to Konig, a hardened terrorist-supporter, I’ve had no problems since my arrest. I’ve always been treated properly, they provide drinks, food, cigarettes. I’ve never had any problems and, God willing, I’ve never had any injustice.”
What will happen to foreign fighters in the hands of the Kurds is very much in debate these days, as the war against the Islamic State is winding down and the question becomes a more important one. Though their families may want to see them returned to France, it is unlikely that the French government sees much value in extraditing international terrorists back to their borders.
Further, it is not France’s fault, in any way, that these people are currently being held by a stateless military organization in Syria. These six French individuals went to Syria entirely of their own volition, and hooked up with a terrorist organization that has been responsible for atrocities around the world, including in France and other European nations.
France is entirely within its rights to let them rot in a Kurdish prison. As Florence Parly said, “those who remain are combatants determined to fight to the end,” and the French government has nothing to gain by extraditing such hardcore terrorists back to its lands.