Around a dozen of Finnish women and nearly 40 children are currently stranded at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Their fate has become an important test for Finland’s new, women-dominated government.
The Finnish left-of-the-centre government led by the Social Democrats has decided to bring home the children of Daesh* terrorists from Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in Syria “as soon as possible”, the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reported.
Presenting the decision, Sanna Marin, who was last week elected the world’s youngest prime minister in a move that helped avert a government crisis, stressed that there is no obligation to help their mothers, who volunteered to go to Syria and join the so-called “caliphate”, unlike the children.
In its decision, the Finnish government stressed that the authorities should at all time ensure compliance with Finnish law and international law. The decisions on whether to bring Daesh children back to Finland will be made on a case-by-case basis. The stated goal is to always ensure the best interests of the child. A special representative appointed by the Foreign Ministry will oversee the process.
The government pledged to do everything in its power to ensure that those returned to Finland do not pose any security threats to Finland’s residents. Under the constitution, the safety of those living in Finland must not be jeopardised. However, the government will review and amend the legislation on terrorist activities, if necessary.
Fate of Daesh Detainees Hot-Button Issue in Finland
The fate of 11 Finnish women and 39 children stranded in al-Hol sparked a hot debate in Finland. While national broadcaster Yle last week reported, citing leaked official documents, that Marin’s government had actually prepared a plan to bring back “all individuals who agreed to repatriation”, the foreign minister Pekka Haavisto denied the existence of such a plan. Later, Finland’s newly appointed Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni added fuel to the fire by running an Instagram poll on what to do with the jihadi wives left in Syria after the collapse of the “caliphate”. Following the backlash, she deleted the poll and apologised.
Later, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö weighed in on the situation, urging to come to the Finnish children’s rescue.
“The overall picture should be pretty clear right now. Finland must help the children. Apparently different opinions have been expressed about the legal obligations, but the moral obligation is quite clear”, Niinistö said, as quoted by Hufvudstadsbladet, stressing that this obligation doesn’t extend to women.
Researcher Toni Selkälä from Turku University called the government’s decision to bring home the Finnish Daesh children “bold, but not exceptional”. He stressed that it paves the way for some of the mothers to return to Finland as well, if it is decided to serve the children’s best interests.
Questions Abound About Future of Al-Hol Inmates
At present, there are about 70,000 woman and children in Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, about 11,000 of which are foreign nationals, that is neither Syrian nor Iraqi.
The Kurdish forces running the camp oppose family separations and want all detainees to go back to their home countries. Donald Trump also urged Europe to take them back, but the European countries would prefer to have their nationals tried in the region because they think many of those detainees, including the women, would pose a security threat.
The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported, citing al-Hol staff, that the women are not keen on returning home, as they tend to “report wrong names and nationalities”.
Finland’s ruling five-party coalition consists of the Social Democratic Party, the Swedish People’s Party, the Greens, the Centre Party and the Left Alliance, all led by women.
Previously individual decisions to accept Daesh children were taken by Finland’s Nordic peers Sweden and Denmark.