Take back all IS-linked foreigners in NE Syria: SDF chief

Take back all IS-linked foreigners in NE Syria, SDF commander tells US-led coalition
3 min read
28 June, 2021
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazloum Abdi on Sunday called on the anti-IS coalition’s members to take back the 'tens of thousands' of foreign nationals held in camps and prisons in northeast Syria, on the eve of a coalition conference
Syrian Democratic Forces commander Mazloum Abdi called on anti-IS coalition member states to repatriate their citizens [Getty]

The commander of Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria called on countries to repatriate their citizens from camps and prisons holding people linked to the Islamic State (IS) group, ahead of a conference for foreign ministers of the international anti-IS coalition in Rome on Monday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazloum Abdi called on the coalition's members to take back "tens of thousands" of foreign nationals held in camps and prisons in northeast Syria, captured before and when the SDF and US-led coalition defeated IS in 2019.

"We call on the Coalition to help return these people to their home countries, fund education and de-radicalisation programmes, and support stability and strong economic recovery in the liberated areas to address the root causes of extremism," Abdi said on Sunday.

The conference, co-hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, will see the 83-country strong coalition discuss ways to fight the remnants of IS in Iraq, Syria, and Africa, according to a State Department statement.

"They will also assess priorities for the Coalition's lines of effort related to stabilization, foreign terrorist fighters, counter-ISIS financing, and counter-messaging efforts," the statement read.

For the first time, 🇮🇹 is about to host in #Rome the Ministerial Meeting of the Global @coalition against Daesh, co-chaired by Min. @luigidimaio and 🇺🇸 SoS @SecBlinken, and with the participation of 81 international delegations 🗺️#OneMissionManyNations pic.twitter.com/aN0sTe7ixt

— Farnesina 🇮🇹 (@ItalyMFA) June 28, 2021

Around 43,000 IS-linked foreign nationals are held in Syria. The US, the UN, and human rights organisations have called on counties to take back their citizens, rehabilitate children there, and try adults for their crimes. European countries have been particularly reluctant to take back their citizens, citing security concerns.

Conditions at prisons in northeast Syria have been described as "inhumane" by human rights groups.

The US Acting Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS John Godfrey will attend the meeting in Rome.

Godfrey visited Al-Hol camp last week - one of the largest in northern Syria - where he "heard updates from humanitarian actors and camp administration", according to the statement from the State Department. He also visited a detention centre holding IS fighters.

"Together with Coalition partners, the United States supports ongoing efforts to improve conditions and security in displacement camps and detention facilities, and to promote improved infrastructure, sanitation, health, education, and economic development in areas liberated from ISIS control," the statement reads.

More domestic pressure is being applied on governments to take their citizens back, with the Canadian parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a Dutch judicial body each calling on their respective governments to take back their citizens.