What to do with IS children?

Syrian Kurds transferred almost 30 children of former IS fighters to France and the Netherlands last week. Commentators in several European countries discuss whether the children of dead or imprisoned IS fighters should be repatriated to their parents' homeland.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

The West must not let itself be demonised

Sweden also has children in the IS prisoner camps. Seven of them have already been brought to Göteborg but the fate of 20 more remains uncertain. Their parents' ideology should not count against them, Dagens Nyheter argues:

“On the one hand [the West] is the devil, on the other [the Islamists] expect first-class service and compassion. Almost all of them feel self-pity and can't understand why their home country, which they abandoned, is now abandoning them to their fate. There is a big risk that they will pass on their values to their children. But that's all the more reason to bring the children home. Because each day they spend in the camp is a day spent with an adult whose influence is harmful.”

Hämeen Sanomat (FI) /

The children bear no blame

The Finnish state must care for its citizens - and particularly for its children - regardless of whether their parents are criminals or not, Hämeen Sanomat argues:

“The blame for crimes against humanity cannot be passed on to children. In cases where these children are Finnish citizens there can be no question of asking whether or not the state should care for them. Luckily the group in question is not large, so it shouldn't be all that difficult to judge on a case-by-case basis. International law must bring those who commit atrocities to justice. Finland's first task should not be to condemn but to help its citizens who are in trouble.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Better to bring them home under supervision

Theo Francken of the right-wing Flemmish N-VA, a former Belgian state secretary for asylum policy, has criticised the return of children born to IS fighters, warning that they pose a security risk. The man's a cynic, De Morgen laments:

“It turns out that we can't know for certain whether such a dying child is a true Belgian. As if the child had the luxury of waiting for its nationality to be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. We have to ask whether these children can be deradicalised, in Theo Francken's view. ... But to do that is to dehumanise children in need, says Heidi De Pauw, head of Child Focus. A dirty game, she argues, although in her view it's an easy call: either we bring the children of IS fighters here, keep an eye on them and care for them. ... Or we wait until the Kurds open the doors and the IS widows come here secretly. Unmonitored and unaccompanied.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Fight extremism with compassion

Around 50 IS fighters' children are currently living in camps in Iraq or Syria. De Morgen calls for them to be brought back as quickly as possible and points to the lessons of World War II:

“Our country should have learned from the mistakes of collaboration and repression after WWII. The children of IS members (some of them ex-fighters) are victims of a violent sect that swallowed up their parents. Just as the children of the Flemish or Wallonians who fought with the murderous SS on the Eastern Front were victims. If we leave these children in the lurch it will cause unrest for decades to come. If we show compassion now, we will triumph over extremism.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

The focus is disturbing

The writer Håkan Boström also draws a historical comparison in Göteborgs-Posten to describe his unease:

“Let's imagine it's the summer of 1945 and the Swedish newspapers are full of reports about the children of Swedish SS volunteers who were stranded on the Eastern Front. The editorials are calling for the Swedish state to bring these children home, and their parents as well. ... If these SS children are given more space than the Jewish victims of the Nazis of whom many were little more children themselves, we might conclude that the Swedish public or at least their representatives were ice-cold Nazi sympathisers. Of course you are right in your objections. We cannot transfer our hatred of the Nazis onto their children.... I have no answer here. But there is something disturbing about this. There is something disturbing about the focus on the SS children. ”