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French mother on hunger strike to bring home daughter from Syria camp

Pascale Descamps has been on hunger strike since February 1 [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2021

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Pascale Descamps has been on hunger strike since February 1 to get her daughter repatriated from detention camp in Syria with her four children.
The French mother of a 32-year-old woman who is detained in northeast Syria's Roj camp has been hunger striking to demand the repatriation of her daughter.

Pascale Descamps, who began her hunger strike on Feburary 1, says her daughter was diagnosed with colon cancer in November at a hospital in Syria, calling on authorities to bring her back home urgently as her health is deteriorating rapidly.

Descamps has also demanded that her four grandchildren, who are also held in the Syria camp with their mother, are brought to France too.

"My daughter is exhausted, she suffers more and more. She constantly has nausea and loses a lot of blood," Descamps told the French daily Libération.

"The doctor told her that she needed to be operated on urgently, but if he did it in this hospital, she would not survive. He advised her to ask to be repatriated."

Descamps' daughter left for Syria in 2015 to join the Islamic State group [IS] with her companion and their three children.

When he was killed, she remarried and had another child.

At the beginning of 2019, she was in Al Baghouz, the last shred of so-called caliphate on the borders of Syria and Iraq, before surrendering to the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters who were besieging the village.

She has since been detained with her four children, without any hope of being repatriated because France only carries out repatriation on a case-by-case basis.

Out of about 80 women and more than 200 children detained in Syria and Iraq, only 35 children were brought back to France, but only because they were orphans or because their mother agreed to them being repatriated without her.

In Descamps' daughter's case, she is the subject of two international arrest warrants, whose her mother would like to be applied in proper conditions.

"She must be held accountable but she has the right to a fair and equitable trial," she told the newspaper. "Refusing to repatriate her amounts to sentencing her to death without trial. It is unworthy. And what will happen to his children? It is beyond comprehension to leave them like that to witness the deterioration of their mother's health."

On December 12, 2020, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), a French governmental organisation to monitor the respect of human rights in the country, asked the French authorities to take all necessary measures to repatriate its nationals, saying their position violated several international agreements France is part of.

Several French people aged 24 to 41, accused of having joined IS were even sentenced to death by hanging in Iraq, without any intervention of France.

The French authorities have been reluctant to repatriate their nationals in Syria.

In 2019, a study found 7 of 10 people in France oppose bringing back home jihadists and their families in Syria, over fears of possible terrorist attacks in France.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is currently investigating the cases of French nationals in Syria camps, and will determine in the coming months whether France has a legal obligation to repatriate French children.

On Descamps' daughter's case, French Justice Minister Dupond-Moretti told France Info that the her ministry is following the case "very closely", while casting doubt on whether the current domestic political situation would allow for repatriations to happen.

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