Dutch jihadist in Syria wants to come home

A destroyed neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, 1 Aug 2017
A destroyed neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, 1 Aug 2017. (Photo: Mahmoud Bali / Wikimedia Commons)

"I want to return to the Netherlands, for the future of my children", a 23-year-old Dutch jihadist in Syria said in an anonymous interview with Belgian broadcaster VRT. The pregnant woman and her young son are currently living in a refugee camp near the Syrian city of Raqqa.

According to newspaper AD, the woman involved is likely a young woman who left from Gouda in 2013. Until recently, the jihadist and her 1-year-old son lived in Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS proclaimed caliphate. The city is under heavy siege and almost conquered by Kurdish and Arab fighters. A large number of ISIS families are therefore fleeing the city. The women and children are detained in a special part of asylum camp Ain Issa. The men are detained in prison, pending their trial. This is the first time a Dutch woman gives an interview from the camp.

The Dutch woman traveled to Syria when she was 19 years old in 2013. There she married a Belgian ISIS combatant and had a son with him. "The only thing I'm thinking about now is his [her son's] wellbeing", she said to VRT. "We are sleeping on a mattress on the ground, there are diseases around and winter is coming." She wants to return to the Netherlands.

The woman doesn't seem to regret going to Syria. According to her, the caliphate falling apart is the consequence of religious rules not being followed. "All that injustice was not in Raqqa before. It was very good at first. I was free to wear a nikab, while in the Netherlands I would be stared at. And in the Netherlands, you live like a robot: you get up early, go to school or work, get home and go to sleep again. I don't like that much", she said to the broadcaster. Though she acknowledged that living in Raqqa also had its downside. "I've also experienced things here. A rocket falling on your house is a life experience. You don't get that in the Netherlands."

The commander of the camp told VTR that the woman can only be extradited to the Netherlands if the Dutch consulate asks for it. According to AD, the Netherlands position is that the country will not help jihadists return - they have to report themselves to a Dutch consulate or embassy. Once they are back in the Netherlands, they will be arrested, questioned and prosecuted for joining a terrorist organization. That is currently happening with Laura H., who escaped from the caliphate and returned to the Netherlands last year.