A four-year-old Canadian girl has flown home after spending two years in a detention camp in northeast Syria leaving behind her mother who travelled there to marry a Daesh fighter and was not allowed to return.
Her mother is one of 12,000 women and children from 60 countries detained in camps for families of people suspected of being Daesh members.
The camps have been described as having “horrific and sub-human conditions” by the UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism.
“The conditions in these camps may reach the threshold of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law,” said Ni Aolain.
They have contaminated water, insufficient food and medicine, and the tents don’t keep out the rain.
Hundreds have died from lack of medical care, the unsafe conditions and camp violence. In the first half of January, 12 people were murdered in Al-Hawl camp.
Most Western countries have attracted widespread criticism after refusing to repatriate their citizens held in these sub-human camps.
In February 57 countries were named and shamed for this. Under international law, states have a duty to repatriate their citizens and if there is evidence, prosecute the adults including for war crimes in domestic courts.
According to Human Rights Watch, international law stipulates that countries uphold the right to family unity unless there is compelling evidence separation is in the child’s best interest.
Children should be considered as victims of armed conflict, and the women victims of Daesh despite several having committed crimes themselves.
“Canada and other countries should take urgent action to repatriate all their citizens from northeast Syria,” says HRW. “Once home they can be offered rehabilitation and reintegration.”
There has been an uptick in stripping these people of their nationality, despite the fact that it is unlawful to render someone stateless.
UK citizen Shamima Begum joined Daesh in 2015 and travelled to Syria to join the group along with two other schoolgirls.
Her citizenship was stripped in 2019 when she was nine months pregnant and she was unable to return to the UK. Her son died when he was just a newborn, the third of her children to die from the conditions they were born into.
The UK’s Supreme Court ruled that she cannot return to the UK to appeal against the decision over her citizenship.