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The female ISIS members - victims or criminals?

February 13th, 2020
topic:Political violence
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq
tags:Bosnia and Herzegovina, ISIS, Syria

Amir Crljenković from Rakovčani village near Prijedor in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina was 23 when he left his job in local café and went to the Middle East to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“He never looked like one of those you would expect to do such a thing. No wide clothing that does not reveal body contours, no untrimmed beard. He used to work as a waiter. He used to drink alcohol which Muslims do not. His family was impoverished. I guess he joined ISIS to be paid for and to send the money to his family so they can have a better life”, one of the villagers said to FairPlanet under the condition of anonymity.

The deal was once Amir gets there, he is going to call his brother to join him. Instead, he called his father Hasaga asking to prevent another son from departing to Syria and saying he is going to try everything to escape.

“It’s a bloody hell here. You better kill him by yourself than to let him come here”, Amir told his father once. He joined the ISIS in May 2014. Two months later, he died.

“I remember someone who does not speak our language called the family repeating the word “shaheed(meaning martyr), so they realised he died. No one mentions it in front of them here in the village ever since. The father and son do farm work for others, and the family live off it. They are hardworking, peaceful and quiet people”, said his neighbour.

“I saw the picture of my dead son via Skype”, Amir’s father testified in one of the cases against terrorism in Bosnia and Herzegovina Court.

Amir is one of at least 98 Bosnians killed as ISIS members. Bosnia outlawed fighting in or recruiting for foreign wars in 2014, in response to the flow of Muslim Bosniaks joining militant groups such as ISIS. Some 260 Bosnian nationals are still in camps in Syria and Iraq. Among them some 50 men, 50 women and some 160 children, including the ones with one of the parents from Bosnia. The state Presidency decided last month to allow its citizens to return to Bosnia, unlike many European countries. Some believe the number could be twice as much if people with Bosnian origin departing to Syria from other countries all over the world would be counted.

So far, 26 people have been sentenced to a total of more than 50 years imprisonment for fighting in the Syrian war in the state court in capital Sarajevo. There were no acquittals so far, which shows the court does not accept their most common defence they have been working in the kitchen or they were humanitarians or so. The public is outraged considering the one or two years of jail is not enough, since the maximum is 20 years. It is because the defendants enter into a plea agreement in most of the cases. There is a lot to be done to socialise and to deradicalise them all, and it is a massive challenge to ill-equipped authorities.

The first individual deported after the fall of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate was Ibro Ćufurović from Velika Kladuša in April last year. He is 25 now, and he joined the ISIS when he was 19. Last month the court sentenced him to four years imprisonment in the first instance. The first group deportation of Bosnia’s citizens from Syrian camps took place on December 19th last year. All seven men were imprisoned. Six women and 12 children were transported to a reception centre for examination and medical care.

The discussion is ongoing whether the female ISIS members are victims or criminals and how the society should treat them once they are allowed to repatriate.

“For men, the procedure is clear: they have been imprisoned soon as they arrived at Sarajevo airport, and it is expected all of them will arrive in the following months. When it comes to women, the conclusion is to check if they were part of military or police actions, whether there were some other wrongdoings. So far, there are one or two female members’ pictures in social networks wearing army uniforms and weapons, and they will be prosecuted. For the vast majority of them, institutions have no indications for any crimes so they will not be treated as fighters. In both cases they need to be helped and reintegrated”, investigative journalist Denis Džidić told local media.

He reminds that Germany and UK have been judging the women who joined the ISIS with their children accusing them of intentional endangering the health and safety of their children. At the same time, this could be hardly applicable to the women that became pregnant and had children after they went to Syria.

“When it comes to children themselves, the treatment must not be repressive in any way. The prosecution, law enforcement agencies and intelligence supervise the state strategy in fighting against terrorism. Recently it became clear that education, the health and social welfare must be included too. I’m glad the OSCE offered assistance in this process”, Džidić added.

Alema Dolamić from Tešanj has been fighting for her sister Adela to get back to Bosnia for three years. She lost the contact with her in 2014, and three years later Adela called her for the very first time after her husband Nermin Jahić brought her and their 8-years old daughter to the Middle East. Meanwhile, they got two more children. After Nermin died in a bomb attack, Adela was brought to the widow house. She managed to escape, but Kurdish forces caught and detained her in Roj camp in northern Syria.

“I think the responsibility should be borne by whoever is to blame, not me personally. So, I will not be running away from the state, law or prison. I did nothing wrong. Most of these women here are the mother who only gave birth to children”, said Adela to Croatia-based reporter Zoran Marinović.

He managed to enter few camps last month in spite of highly restrictive measures imposed by Kurdish authorities after a 10-years old boy was shot to death earlier in December. He conveyed to Adela a message from her sister, who said she only wants to walk and dance with her again and only to be with each other.

“I love her so much. Nothing has changed from the last time we saw each other. It is the same love, even bigger. I appreciate much what she has been doing for me all the time. I know it is not up to her. If it was, I know that I would be home long ago”, Adela replied in a video message to her sister.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Author
Syria Bosnia and Herzegovina Iraq
"I guess he joined ISIS to be paid for and to send the money to his family so they can have a better life".
Amir is one of at least 98 Bosnians killed as ISIS members.
So far, 26 people sentenced to a total of more than 50 years imprisonment for fighting in the Syrian war in state court in capital Sarajevo.