During the rise of the so-called Daesh* “caliphate”, Sweden emerged as one of Europe’s premier “producers” of jihadists per capita. While notoriously lax at prosecuting returnees for crimes committed in warzones, Sweden also struggles to locate all of its “Daesh children”, let alone repatriate them.
The United Nations has urged Sweden to immediately bring home its citizens who are in internment camps in northern Syria.
According to UN spokesperson on terrorism Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Sweden has together with 56 other member states ended up on the body’s “shame list” for failing to follow international law.
“This is not a list you want to be on. You should be actively working to get away from the list”, Fionnuala Ni Aolain told national broadcaster SVT.
According to Ni Aolain, Sweden has failed to meet the organisation’s requirements.
“If women and children are still in the camps in Syria, they have not fulfilled their obligations under international law”, Ni Aolain said, emphasising that there is ample opportunity to do so. “If the adults need to be prosecuted, there is the capacity and willingness to do so. Children must be treated as victims, reunited with their families and integrated into society”.
Ni Aolain compared the conditions in the Al Hol and Roj internment camps in Rojava in north-eastern Syria to Guantanamo Bay, a US military prison notorious for cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of inmates.
“These women and children live in what can only be described as horrible and inhuman conditions”, Ni Aolain said.
All in all, both camps contain about 64,000 women and children with links to Daesh.
Sweden has previously made several attempts to bring back its children from camps in Syria. A child who has a parent with Swedish citizenship automatically becomes a Swedish citizen as well, regardless of where in the world it is born. However, a large proportion of the children in the camps were born after their mothers joined Daesh. Some of the women have remarried or formed new partnerships since their husbands were killed. This has made it difficult for Swedish authorities to determine exactly which children have Swedish citizenship.
In the spring of 2019, notorious Daesh recruiter Michael Skråmo’s seven children were taken back to Sweden, which spurred a debate among both politicians and the general public. The fate of “Daesh brides” and their offspring remains a sensitive issue in many European countries, to the point where the Norwegian Progress Party left the government following a decision to repatriate.
During the rise of Daesh’s so-called “caliphate”, Sweden “produced” some of the most jihadists per capita in Europe. Some 300 “Daesh travellers”, as they are often referred to by the country’s politicians and media, joined the terrorists’ cause in the Middle East. While about half of them have already returned, Sweden is notoriously lax at prosecuting the returnees for crimes committed in the warzones, with charges hardly ever pressed due to the burden of proof.
* Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/“Islamic State”) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and other countries