PARIS — In a determined attraction to France’s authorities, some 10 Frenchwomen who joined the Islamic State and at the moment are being held in detention camps in Syria started a starvation strike on Saturday, protesting the federal government’s refusal to carry them residence for trial.
The ladies are amongst dozens of French moms and their 200 or so kids who’ve been detained by Kurdish forces for at the least two years in squalid camps, and are in a state of authorized limbo.
“We determined to cease feeding ourselves, whatever the dangers, till we meet the best individuals to get solutions about our future,” one of many girls mentioned in a voice message obtained by The New York Instances.
Two French attorneys representing the ladies confirmed the starvation strike in a statement launched on Sunday night.
Since at the least 2019, when the Islamic State misplaced its last foothold in Syria, some 60,000 family of Islamic fighters, largely girls and youngsters, have been caught in fetid, disease-ridden detainment camps run by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, with no clear future in sight.
France, together with different Western nations that even have residents detained there, has resisted calls from households and rights teams to repatriate its individuals, and it has introduced again solely a handful of youngsters.
Repatriating residents who had left to wage jihad has lengthy been a delicate subject in France, a rustic that’s nonetheless reeling from years of Islamist terrorist assaults. However the starvation strike, together with latest initiatives from French lawmakers and residents, might add stress on the federal government to take motion within the face of a scenario that’s worsening by the day.
United Nations human rights consultants final week urged 57 states, together with France, to repatriate girls and youngsters whose “continued detention, on unclear grounds” within the camps “is a matter of grave concern and undermines the development of accountability, reality and justice.”
France has lengthy argued that adults who joined the Islamic State, together with girls, ought to be tried the place they dedicated their crimes: in Syria and Iraq. A number of males have already been tried and sentenced in Iraqi courts.
However making an attempt girls has to date proved not possible since their potential crimes are unclear and since the Kurdish administration that’s detaining them is just not internationally acknowledged. Kurdish forces who run the camps have known as for the repatriation of all foreigners, saying they can’t hold them indefinitely in an unstable area.
The ladies holding the starvation strike say they wish to be tried in France.
“We’re there, ready, in tents, within the chilly, within the winter,” one starvation striker mentioned in a voice message.
She mentioned: “We wish to pay our debt to society for the selection we made to return right here. However it’s time for this nightmare to finish and for us to go residence.”
The New York Instances obtained a number of voice messages from the ladies however is just not publishing their names as a result of they’ve obtained dying threats from Islamic State supporters who oppose their want to return to France.
International locations like Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have every repatriated greater than 100 of their residents, many greater than Western nations the place public opinion is firmly in opposition to bringing residence those that left to struggle with Islamic State.
Rights teams have pressed the governments to at the least carry residence their residents’ kids, arguing that the minors didn’t select to go to Syria and that having them raised in camps which have develop into cauldrons of Islamist radicalization would solely worsen the scenario.
However France has agreed to repatriate kids solely on a case-by-case foundation, giving precedence to orphans and fragile kids whose moms conform to allow them to go. Up to now, 35 kids have been introduced again, together with a 7-year-old woman affected by a coronary heart defect who was flown to France for pressing medical care in April.
Within the present French political local weather, repatriations would possibly show much more fraught. Within the fall, the nation was hit by a number of Islamist terrorist assaults that reopened outdated wounds. A draft legislation geared toward combating Islamism is predicted to get last approval within the French Senate subsequent month.
Households of family stranded in Syrian camps and rights teams have lengthy denounced this piecemeal repatriation course of. In northern France, the mom of a Frenchwoman detained in Syria has been on starvation strike since Feb. 1 to protest France’s coverage.
In a public letter, a French lawmaker not too long ago condemned the circumstances of the camps and the federal government’s reluctance to behave, which he known as “deeply inhuman and irresponsible political cowardice.”
“If, due to our inertia, we proceed to condone the responsible silence of the federal government,” the letter learn, “then we could have been the lawmakers who let harmless kids die.”
A spokeswoman for the French Overseas Ministry, which oversees the repatriation course of, couldn’t be instantly reached for remark.
Marie Dosé and Ludovic Rivière, the attorneys for the ladies on starvation strike, mentioned in a press release that the ladies ought to be solely tried in France, and that “for greater than two years,” they “have been ready to pay for what they’ve completed.”
In one of many voice messages, a lady mentioned that they wanted “a serving to hand from our nation now.”
A trial in France, she mentioned, could be “a second probability.”