As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continues its advance on the last ISIS-held enclave in Syria, hundreds of militants and their families are attempting to escape.
As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continues its operations to defeat ISIS in eastern Syria, hundreds of militants are turning themselves over and surrendering to the oncoming forces. According to some estimates around 400 to 600 militants remain in the village of Baghuz, the last ISIS-held enclave in Syria. The London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported that around 2,500 civilians, mostly women and children had escaped the village due to continued bombardment and clashes.
“There is fierce fighting in Baghuz. It’s terrifying for my children,” said a Russian displaced person. “I want to go back to my country. That’s why I escaped here. There is fierce fighting in Baghuz.”
After screening the escapees, the SDF security forces discovered that many of them are foreign nationals from Turkey, Morocco, Russia and other countries who came to Syria to join ISIS.
Following screening, the foreign nationals affiliated with the militant group were separated from Syrian civilians and then transferred to a camp for foreign displaced people in Hasakah Province. With no decision on what their fate will be, the foreigners now call on their countries to take them back.
“I ran away from them, and they brought me back. They did not let me go back to my country,” said a Moroccan woman who recently left Baghuz. “We call on the Moroccan Government to bring us back to our country.”
Recently, the issue of foreign nationals wanting to return to their countries has gained a lot of media coverage due to the Shamima Begum case. Begum, a British citizen who flew to ISIS’ territory when she was 15 along with two of her friends, has been recently apprehended by the SDF in Syria. In a recent interview, Begum asked to be returned to the UK where her newborn son can receive care there.
With public opinion mostly against her, many observers say that the government will not likely bring her back any time soon.
In France, the government initially preferred keeping French nationals in Iraq and Syria in the local jails there, however, recently they shifted their policies now looking to return them to France so that they can face trial.
With the defeat of ISIS in Syria now imminent, the issue of foreign nationals captured by the forces will be an issue that must be resolved soon.