Turkey repatriates two women to Netherlands over Isis membership

Dutch to appeal ruling on bringing home children held in camps in northern Syria

The Dutch government has admitted it did everything possible to dissuade Turkey from repatriating two women who joined Islamic State in Syria, but has confirmed that they arrived back in the Netherlands on Tuesday, one of them with her two young children.

The Turks' decision – which is totally in line with Ankara's public commitment to send "most of" its Islamic State (Isis) detainees home to their countries of origin by Christmas – was described by justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus as "very disappointing".

The decision to go ahead with the repatriations underlines the growing diplomatic tensions between Turkey and EU countries which say they do not want Isis supporters back.

This was particularly pointed in the case of one of the women returned to the Netherlands. It’s understood the Dutch pointed out to Turkey that her citizenship had been revoked. It responded by saying that states did not have a legal right to leave their citizens without a nationality.


Citizenship revoked

The two women have been identified as 25-year-old "Xaviera S" from Apeldoorn, and 23-year-old "Fatimah H" from Tilburg. The former was arrested in Turkey, while the latter handed herself in at the Dutch embassy in Ankara at the end of October.

Fatimah H has already had her Dutch citizenship revoked. She returned to the Netherlands with her two children, aged three and four, who were immediately handed over to social services.

Both women now face trial for alleged membership of a terrorist organisation. Once the trials are over and they have been acquitted or served prison terms, the authorities indicate that Fatimah H will be deported to Morocco – though it remains unclear whether Morocco will accept her.

‘Everything possible’

The Dutch situation is further complicated by the fact that the government is to appeal a court ruling last week that it has an obligation to do “everything possible” to bring home children of Dutch nationality under 12 who are held in displaced persons camps in northern Syria.

If that appeal goes against the government, then Mark Rutte's coalition faces the fact that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who run the camps are opposed in principle to sending children home without their mothers.

Although figures are unreliable, estimates put the number of Dutch adults held in the camps at 55, of whom about three-quarters are women. There are also roughly 85 children, some born in the Netherlands and others in Syria.

The return of the Isis women was met with dismay in parliament by two of the four coalition parties. Mr Rutte's Liberals said it underlined the importance of establishing a tribunal in the region. Centre-left D66 said it was imperative that the women be prosecuted for "their terrible crimes".

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court