The Granite Tower
Plead for Return as an Enemy
Lee Jae Eun  |
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승인 2019.05.05  01:39:12
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Should countries take the responsibility for citizens who left the nation to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the terrorist organization tht has been posing a threat to the international community? Society is faced with a dilemma between protecting national security and taking responsibility of its citizens despite the fact that they left to join the terrorist group. This issue is yet unresolved as nations still have not come to an agreement for dealing with the question. The consequences that one has to face with past decisions are still to be determined. 

According to the report in 2018 by King's College London, an estimated 6000 western European citizens joined ISIS. Out of those, one third have already returned to their nations. Meanwhile, the debate of whether the citizens who left for the terrorist group should be accepted back to the country has given rise to a clash of perspectives regarding rights as a citizen and the risks to safety. Leaders all around the world are to make a consensus in dealing with numerous people that seek to return. 

Considering Security or Rights

The debate over the citizenship of such people and national security created deep conflict. The firm reasons for opposing the return of nationals who left for ISIS mainly concern national security. It is arguable that ISIS detainees pose a danger for all times and therefore should not be allowed to enter in any circumstance. The fact that these people were part of the terrorist group may become a huge threat and hinder social stability. These possible risks increase public unrest, which make leaders hesitant to permit ISIS detainees back into the country. 

The viewpoint that countries have responsibilities in taking back ISIS returnees should also be scrutinized carefully. Regarding the basic human rights of all, citizens have the right to be protected by their nation. Furthermore, it is even illegal for a state to leave its people stateless under international law. Although the legal status of past citizens is difficult to determine and is unclear in which extent the nation should be protective, it is palpable that leaving them stateless is to be reconsidered. In addition, the conviction that children should not have to suffer for the crimes of their parents is also a strong motivation for determining the rehabilitation of past ISIS members. 


▲ Refugee camp in Syria

In the debates about whether former ISIS fighters can ever be rehabilitated, there is also the concern of ideology and the matter of terrorism. Some argue that the personal motivations rather than ideological beliefs should be considered in the process of taking back former citizens. Experts have pointed out that individualized appeals such as a sense of belonging and acceptance were the reasons many joined the terrorist group instead of the violent extremist ideologies. Despite this analysis, it is true that it is difficult for the international society to show sympathy for those who left their country and instead turned their backs as an enemy.

Resolute Reactions of Nations

The stance of the United States (U.S.) has been very firm that it will ban the entry of ISIS returnees, particularly in the case of Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old woman born in the U.S. who left for Syria in 2014 but lately is demanding to return with her son. President Donald Trump has announced that Muthana is not to be allowed back into the country and furthermore stated that the U.S. will not be supporting ISIS fighters to enter back into Europe as well. He also claimed for other European countries to take back over 800 ISIS fighters captured in Syria and to put them on trial, warning that "the U.S. does not want to watch these ISIS fighters permeate Europe."

France has also expressed complementary opinions in representing its stance regarding this issue. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet has commented that militants are to be taken back "case by case" in a manner that is less concrete. However, she has referred to the ones seeking for return as "enemies" of the nation and those who should face justice in the future. Germany has also been concrete in the point of view that fighters that have been a part of ISIS should be put on trial, along with its stance that the repatriation of such people would be intensely challenging. As such, certain European governments expressed their reluctance to take back thousands of ISIS members including children. 

On the other hand, Denmark and Netherlands have approached this issue in a fairly contrastive manner. The respective countries have been successful in welcoming the returnees back into their borders by promoting community engagement, particularly by allowing access to psychological and financial support. It has further provided mentorship and counseling, with a comprehensive scale of rehabilitation programs. However, the value of government funds spent in these areas remains in dispute. Furthermore, only a few nations have allowed ISIS members to return from Syria and Iraq, including Russia, Indonesia, Lebanon and Sudan.

This dispute that affect the lives of thousands of ISIS fighters over whether they will ever be allowed back in each country is still under discussion. Although the human rights and citizenship of those who were once a part of the terrorist organization are crucial factors that needs to be considered, it is evident that these people played a role as a dangerous member of the group. The fighters may pose a serious threat and increase fear about terrorism in society and the international community, which intensifies the dilemma of what consequences these people should have to face for their past crimes and what is to be determined about their uncertain future.

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