ISIS widow pleads for Netherlands to allow her four kids to return

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

Krista van T., a 31-year-old woman from Limburg who went to join terrorist organization ISIS with her husband in 2014, is now a widow living in a crowded refugee camp in northern Syria with her four children. She is pleading for the Dutch government to allow her children back to the Netherlands - even if it is without her, she said to newspaper Trouw.

Van T. went to the ISIS caliphate with her husband and two oldest children in 2014. She had two more children while in the caliphate. She has a 10-year-old daughter and three sons age 9, 4 and nearly 2 years old. She and her children left the last piece of the ISIS caliphate, in the Syrian village of Baghouz, in February - a few days after her Dutch-Moroccan husband was shot and killed. They are now staying in refugee camp Al-Hol.

The conditions are so poor in the camp, that the 31-year-old woman fears for the health of her children. "I don't understand what the Netherlands is waiting or to take them back", she said to Trouw. "These innocent children must leave here as quickly as possible. Many children died in this camp due to malnutrition and poor hygiene." There's no school in the camp. "My two oldest children have fallen behind in reading and writing." 

"Since we came here, my children are only getting worse. My son is outside all day, he does not listen, he constantly argues and throws stones. This environment is totally not good for him", Van T. said. "My children need regularity, they have to go to school. You cannot keep a child in a tent for 24 hours."

Van T. heard that two Dutch orphans were taken back to the Netherlands last month. She also heard that other countries are recovering their nationals. She knows that her own chances of returning to the Netherlands aren't great, but she is willing to let her children go home without her. "I know they'll have a better life there than here. For the sake of their wellbeing, I might let my children go." They could go live with her husband's family, she said. "His family is by no means radical."

According to Dutch intelligence and security service AIVD, there are currently around 85 Dutch children in refugee camps and detention centers in Syria and Iraq. And at least another 85 children are with Dutch jihadists who are still active in the combat zone. 90 percent of these kids are below the age of 9 years, most of them were born in the combat zone. 

Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer has made multiple calls on the Dutch government to bring these children back to the Netherlands, expressing concerns for their wellbeing and development. Last month special UN envoy for Children in Armed Conflicts, Virginia Gamba, called on the Dutch government to "show grace and mercy" and bring these children home

The parents of Dutch who went to become rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war also established a foundation called Achterblijvers with the goal to convince the Dutch state to bring their children and grandchildren back to the Netherlands. "Of course our children will have to account here for what they did and to prevent them from doing anything dangerous here. But we don't want our grandchildren, like the children of NSB people 70 years ago, to pay for the actions of their parents", a prominent member of the foundation said to the Volkskrant in April.