Bleak future awaits Turkish wives, children of ISIL militants in Iraq
Fevzi Kızılkoyun – ANKARAThe Turkish wives and children of Turkish Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Iraq are facing an obscure future, with many families in Turkey searching desperately to reach their relatives.
While jihadists apprehended during operations in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tal Afar are currently kept in jails, their wives and children were placed in camps controlled by the United Nations.
Mosul and Tal Afar were recently liberated from ISIL and the fate of women and children who traveled to Iraq with the jihadist militants have come under the limelight after the operations, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announcing on Sept. 16 that half of them were Turkish.
Many of those detained at the camps are not guilty of any crime, al-Abadi had told the Associated Press, and his government is “in full communication” with their home countries to “find a way to hand them over.”
It has previously emerged that jihadists and their families surrendered to the Iraqi army, Hashd al-Shaabi forces and Peshmerga units after understanding that ISIL was going to be defeated.
A camp close to Mosul is currently being kept in a secret location as part of security measures. There are many Turkish women who lost their jihadist husbands in clashes, in addition to the children who lost their fathers in the camp.
According to information obtained by daily Hürriyet, a total of 217 families applied to officials in order to find their relatives who were living in ISIL-held territories in Iraq.
Some 94 families crossed into Iraq from the Habur border gate in the Silopi district of the southeastern province of Şırnak on a trail to learn the fate of their children, grandchildren and daughters-in-law.
Speaking to Hürriyet, a Turkish woman who has been searching for her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in the camps in Iraq said “everyone feels miserable during the search.”
“My son crossed into Iraq [to join ISIL] with his wife and my two grandchildren three years ago. My son died in Mosul, but I don’t know what happened to the others. We checked a few camps, however, we were unable to find them,” the woman, identified only by the initials E.Y., said, adding that those who were apprehended from ISIL-held territories are being kept in a separate camp.
“We were told, ‘Those who left ISIL are being kept in a different camp.’ However, we don’t know the location of that camp and whom we can ask about it. We came to Iraq with many families. Everyone is miserable and is waiting to hear from their children,” she also said.
Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT), police’s intelligence and anti-terror units, meanwhile, have been carrying out “risk analyses” regarding the Turkish women and children in the camp.
Turkish authorities will also investigate how they joined ISIL, how they crossed into Iraq, whether they were involved in clashes, whether they belong to the armed branch of the jihadist group and if they received weapons and explosives training.
In the event of extradition to Turkey, women and children above the age of 14 will be questioned. Those active in the group and who took part in clashes will be tried over “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “being involved in armed and bomb attacks.”
According to Turkish authorities, those acquitted after the trial process will be put under intelligence tracking. Little children, on the other hand, will be delivered to their families or relatives - if they exist.
Another woman struggling to find her family members in Iraq said her sister was taken to Iraq forcefully by her husband.
“My brother-in-law died in clashes and we don’t know where my sister and her children are. We applied to authorities and we asked for help,” said the woman, identified only by the initials B.E., adding that they called the Turkish Foreign Ministry a couple of times and informed them about the situation.
“However, we couldn’t obtain any results. There are hundreds of Turkish citizens in this condition and most were taken there [warzones] by their husbands. There are also many little children,” she added.