Will IS-linked Indonesian and Malaysian women detained by Kurdish rebels return home?

Analysis: A group of women linked to IS were detained by Kurdish forces in February, but Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur are working to extradite them, reports Zam Yusa.
A group of Indonesian and Malaysian women linked to the Islamic State group [IS] were among the hundreds of women and girls detained by Kurdish forces in Syria in February.
Since then both governments have claimed to be working on their release, but progress has remained slow.  

Approximately 800 women from various countries were detained and kept at detention sites. Among them were at least 15 Indonesians and one Malaysian woman. 

Nadim Houry, the terrorism and counter-terrorism programme director of Human Rights Watch, spoke with many of the women during visits to detention camps in Kurdish-held areas, and revealed that most of the women had children with them.
They were reportedly being held separately from captured IS fighters and were given a certain amount of freedom - but were not allowed to leave the camps.
Some women interviewed by Houry said they had been "beaten and humiliated" during interrogations and forced to live in unhygienic conditions with their babies.
"These women are in a very difficult situation. For the little kids, especially, the circumstances are by no means good," Houry said, adding that the women wanted to return home and were willing to face criminal charges in their home countries.
"Some women want to at least send their children home," he said. "The children have not committed any crime. They are victims of the war, and often their radicalised parents."

Kurdish authorities have said they do not wish to prosecute the women and would rather send them back to their home nations, but some countries have opposed the move as they deal with thousands of returning extremist fighters. 

'Not much leverage' 
Malaysian authorities said they were liaising with Interpol and using "unofficial channels to confirm the presence" of the Malaysian woman and her children in the Kurds' custody. An Australian expert said the Malaysian government was negotiating directly with the Kurds for information on and release of their citizen.

Meanwhile, Indonesian government minister Wiranto said authorities had "taken immediate action" and the foreign ministry and counter-terrorism agency would co-operate with the police to investigate the detention of the Indonesian women.

But according to an Indonesian security analyst, the government did not have much leverage over the Kurds.
"If they were arrested by the YPG [People's Protection Units], a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria, then the Indonesian government would have to pay a ransom, and I really doubt they were really that interested in doing so," the analyst, who requested anonymity, told The New Arab.
"The Indonesian government would probably have to use unofficial channels to ensure their release."
It was reported that Indonesia had also asked Turkish authorities for help.
"These people who were expatriated were supposedly captured not by the Kurds, but were arrested or intercepted around the exit or access route from Turkey to Syria, so the Turks still have a lot of influence," the analyst added.

Chaula Rininta Anindya, a research analyst at the Indonesia Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said she believed Indonesia was taking efforts to tackle terrorism in Indonesia into consideration.
"There was once a proposal within the draft law on terrorism amendment to annul the citizenship of Indonesians who join extremist organisations abroad," she told The New Arab. 
"However, this idea was strongly criticised. First, there is no strong legal basis to revoke the citizenship of those Indonesians who join extremist groups abroad. According to Law No. 12/2006, the government can only revoke someone's citizenship if they are joining a foreign country's military or staying overseas for five consecutive years without notifying the government," Anindya explained. 
"In this case, if Indonesia revokes their citizenship, it also means that Indonesia recognises IS as a sovereign country."
The Indonesian expert also said revoking their citizenships would violate their human rights.
"Indonesia does not recognise dual citizenship, thus once their citizenships are revoked, they will become stateless persons," she said.
"Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the rights of nationality. In other words, they are still Indonesian citizens and each of them has the right to protection by the state based on the 1945 Constitution."
She also said those who travelled to Syria might encounter disillusionment with IS.
"There are a number of cases of Indonesians who decided to return to their country after living in miserable conditions in Syria, such as Dwi Djoko Wiwoho from Batam who admitted to being deceived by IS propaganda. Therefore, there are still possibilities that these Indonesians are willing to go back to Indonesia," she said.
The Indonesian government could also use the negative experiences of those who have lived with the Islamic State group for help and information.
"It would help communicate to potential extremist group recruiters that we know their propaganda is not true at all," she explained.

The influence of the Islamic State group in Indonesia seems to be growing as the group steps up its propaganda efforts in the region. Up to 30 Indonesian groups have pledged allegiance to IS and some have voiced ambitions to establish an official IS franchise in South-East Asia. Between 300 and 700 Indonesians are believed to have joined the group in Syria and Iraq over the past two years.
The Indonesian analyst believes that this may have some influence over the levels of enthusiasm within the Indonesian government to repatriate the detained women.
"Unless they are informed to actually do something by, for example, the Turkish government, the Indonesian government is unlikely to act," he said. 
"I just don't see much clamour from Indonesians either, especially on social media, to get these people back. I think the majority think it is better to leave them there than rescue them as there is potential to cause more problems back home."

Source: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2018/4/25/is-linked-indonesian-and-malaysian-women-detained-by-kurds


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