Dutch jihadist dies in Syrian camp: report

Children in a refugee camp
Children in a refugee campPhoto: radekprocyk/DepositPhotos

Karenia J. from Zwolle died in a Syrian prison camp from illness and malnutrition two weeks ago. As the Belgian man she married in the ISIS caliphate also died, presumably on the battlefield, their two young children are now orphans. They are being taken cared for in the area, though exactly what this entails is unclear, AD reports.

J. left the Netherlands for the ISIS caliphate several years ago. She's been on the Dutch terrorist list for some time, according to the newspaper. She and her children, aged 2 and 4, stayed in camp Ain Issa, in the Kurdish region in northern Syria. The camp houses many Syrians who fled the battlefield. A separate part in the camp houses "jihad brides" and their children. The 32-year-old woman from Zwolle suffered from a chronic illness for some time. That combined with malnutrition turned fatal for her. 

Thousands of refugees live in the three large camps - Ain Issa, Al Roj and Al Hol - including hundreds of former ISIS women and their children. An estimated 30 Dutch women are currently living in these camps, some for more than a year, according to AD. There are increasing reports about the situation in the Syrian camps deteriorating. As the fight against ISIS is still ongoing, new refugees and ISIS families are still arriving at the camps every day. This results in a lack of food, medication and heating. Last week the World Health Organization reported that 29 children and babies froze to death in camp Al Hol over a period of eight weeks. 

Family members of Dutch jihadists fear more deaths, according to AD. For years they have been living with the burden that one of their relatives joined a terrorist organization, often taking their young children with them or having kids there. Now they have to live with the fact that their children and grandchildren escaped the caliphate, but may still die in a refugee camp. "The circumstances are very bad. And what happens to the children when a mother dies?" one relative said to the newspaper. The relatives hope that the women and children will be able to come to the Netherlands soon. While their daughters will face a prison sentence, at least they know their grandchildren will be cared for in the Netherlands.

Last year Dutch intelligence service AIVD reported that around 175 Dutch children are living in former ISIS areas in Syria and Iraq. Children's ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer made several calls on the government to bring these kids back to the Netherlands. In May last year Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said that the government is is looking into whether children of Dutch jihadists can be removed from camps in Syria, though little has been done about it since

The Netherlands has taken the position that Dutch women have to report to a Dutch consulate in Iraq or Turkey on their own, before the Netherlands will help bring them back, according to AD. But the women cannot do this, because the Kurds keep them in the camps. The Kurds also do not want to try the women themselves, they want European countries to take back their 'own' jihadists. On Friday Minister Grapperahaus said that there are "contacts" between the Netherlands and the Kurds and that the return of these women and children is "being investigated", the newspaper writes.