French women in Syria camps 'launch hunger strike': report

French women in Syria camps go on hunger strike to demand repatriation: report
2 min read
22 February, 2021
Around a dozen French women who joined IS in Syria began a hunger strike on Saturday in efforts to pressure France to repatriate them.
The women are being held in squalid, disease-ridden camps in northeastern Syria [Getty]
French women who joined the Islamic State and are currently held in Syrian detention camps began a hunger strike on Saturday in an attempt to secure their repatriation and trial in French courts, according to The New York Times.

In a series of voice recordings obtained by the Times, the women - who chose to remain anonymous due to threats - said they had decided to stop eating until they meet the "right people to get answers about our future".

French lawyers representing the women confirmed their hunger strikes on Sunday.

The ten striking are among dozens of French women and about 200 children detained by Kurdish forces at squalid camps in northeastern Syria.

Over 60,000 relatives of IS fighters live in the Al-Hol and Roj camps, after the extremist group lost its final foothold in Syria in 2019.

France and other Western countries, whose citizens are detained there, have resisted calls from families and rights groups to repatriate them.

UN human rights experts have said that the continued detention "on unclear grounds" of women and children from 57 states in the camps – including  from France - "is a matter of grave concern and undermines the progression of accountability, truth and justice".

Read more:  Women, children from 57 states in Syria camps: UN expert

While France has repatriated some children, its unwillingness to do more is linked to increased domestic attacks by IS sympathisers. This has triggered a draft law aimed at combating Islamist extremists, seen by some as unfairly targeting ordinary Muslims.

France believes that the women and children can be tried in Syria, but this process is fraught since their potential crimes are unclear. The Kurdish administration running the camps is not internationally recognised.

The women who spoke to the Times expressed their wish to be tried in France.

"We want to pay our debt to society for the choice we made to come here. But it's time for this nightmare to end and for us to go home," one woman said.

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