Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Reuters News agency have reported on the manner in which the foreign males, foreign females and their children of the Islamic State who have surrendered to Iraqi forces in Iraq are being handled. The men and boys 12 years old and over are separated from the women and children and there are reports some are executed whilst others detained but there is no trail of evidence to confirm both streams of reports.
An HRW report of July 13, 2017 stated that a special closed camp was established at Bartalla, Iraq to house IS families for “rehabilitation” before reinsertion into society. In this report there was no mention of the women and children of the Islamic State considered foreign in Iraq. At the Bartalla camp the modus operandi was clear as families devoid of men and boys from Mosul and Tal Afar were housed there with those classified as IS families being sent there.
An HRW report dated September 20, 2017 reported on a camp at Hammam al- Alil, Iraq housing over 1,400 foreign women and children of IS who were all subsequently moved on September 17, 2017 to a detention camp at Tal Kayf under the total control of Iraqi military intelligence as there is no presence of a humanitarian organisation at Tal Kayf. The foreign women and children are then at the mercy of Iraqi intelligence as there is no international oversight. HRW on its visit to then Hammam al-Alil camp holding the over 1,400 foreign women and children interviewed on September 10 and 11, 2017 27 women held at the camp. The family groups interviewed contained no men and boys over 12 years old. At the time of the HRW visit the camp was under the management of the Norwegian Refugee Council but on September 12, 2017 the Norwegian Refugee Council stated that it will no longer manage the camp as it’s not a humanitarian facility. The HRW report listed the nationalities of the women at the camp as follows: Afghan, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Chechen, Iranian, Russian, Syrian, Tajik, Trinidadian and Turkish. A Reuters report on the camp also listed: Algerian, French and German nationals. Both the HRW and Reuters report does not provide a listing of the number of women and children as per nationalities listed and HRW only spoke to a sample of 27 women. The report in the Trinidad Guardian of October 12, 2017 “Trinis who fled Isis now in Iraqi detention camps” which reported on the information provided by HRW on the Trinidadian woman interviewed who indicated that she and her sister who is pregnant were in the camp with their children and their mother. Their father was separated from them and carried to parts unknown. This single interview does not and cannot speak to the total number of women, children and men of Trinidad and Tobago of the Islamic State who have surrendered to the Iraqi forces are in detention camps across Iraq or dead. The women interviewed by HRW revealed the number of the sample who didn’t have in their possession the travel document of their country of origin. Then there is the problem of children born in Iraq under the rule of Islamic State seen in the number of three year olds and younger in the camp. What is most indicative is the refusal of the Trinbagonian woman interviewed by HRW to divulge her identity as name, former area of residence in Trinidad, family name in Trinidad and any information on her travel document from T&T. This position worsens the plight of the woman in Iraq as it fails to grapple with the threat posed to those branded with the mark of IS held captive by the Iraqi power structure especially potent being the grave threat posed by those driven by the blood lust generated by revenge and vendetta. The strategy has then to be to give all information necessary to international sources and the Iraqi state and call for repatriation back to T&T. To refuse to do this will result in a steady stream of orphans left at the mercy of the powers that be.
In August 2017 the Russian network RT ran a story on the number of Russian speaking orphans in an orphanage in Baghdad. Subsequently the call went out for members of the family of these orphans to come forward to commence the process of reuniting them with their families. Are there orphans of Trinidad and Tobago origin in need of deliverance and reunification with their families in T&T in Iraq? On September 11, 2017 the RT news agency aired a video report on the foreign women and children held in the said camp in Iraq. The report sought out Russian speaking women only willing to speak on camera with their facial features erased. The women interviewed made the call for them to return home but the reporter also spoke of the intention to place these women on trial in either Iraq or their country of origin. The reporter also spoke of the number of orphans in Iraq who were the children of foreign fighters and their wives.
From what is reported in the HRW and Reuters reports it’s now apparent that Islamic State foreign fighters from T&T were in Iraq and involved in the futile attempt to hold Mosul for IS. Is the same scenario being repeated in Raqqa with a similar outcome of T&T female nationals and their children of IS now in detention? The salient reality now is what is the position of the government of T&T and the Ummah of T&T on these women and children in Iraq? The much vaunted “allies” of T&T in the war on terrorism have indicated their ambivalence at best towards the return of foreign fighters of IS to their country of origin but what of the women and children? Will these women and children become stateless consigned to a netherworld situated in Iraq thereby becoming offloaded on the Iraqi government and open to the acts of revenge and vendetta that have been spawned by the barbaric actions of the Islamic State? Are the women to be tried in Iraq and face punishment in Iraq when found guilty? What then of the children left behind? What will be done about orphans born in the Islamic State to a foreign parent or parents?
One report in the Middle East Eye has indicated that the T&T government has in the past facilitated the return to T&T of women of T&T and their children who embraced then fled from the Islamic State. Also note carefully the estimate given for Islamic State foreign fighters from Trinidad and Tobago which frames the scale of the problem. The aid given to Amina and her sons by the T&T government will this enable the T&T government to locate these women and children in Iraq and Syria, consider their request to return to T&T if they are made, approve or deny and facilitate as they reportedly did before? Or use the escape route of these women and children being stateless?
To the Ummah of T&T especially those who encouraged, aided and abetted the Hijrah what do you intend to do in response to this reality? Remember the Quranic injunction on treatment afforded to orphans and note it’s one instrument of our judgement! For the power of the Islamic State discourse of Hijrah to the Khilafah moved entire families of Muslims in T&T to undertake Hijrah to a failed project from its outset and now it’s the burden of the Ummah of T&T to deal with the blowback such is our destiny and our duty.