A Socio-Political Conundrum Over the Acceptance of ISIS-Brides
By Disha Mishra
The war ridden lands of the Middle East are no bed of roses. Worn out of such turmoiled conditions, there are many Jihadi brides from foreign lands who want to return to their respective countries, but their government has shut its door on them. The governments of these states contend that by letting these brides in, the national security of the state could be compromised. It is quite clear that these states prioritize their national security over humanitarian obligations, which has become very common in the recent past, especially during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The case of Shamima Begum is one such case of an ISIS bride which mobilized the attention of several International Relations scholars. Shamima was a 15- year old schoolgirl of Bangladeshi heritage who fled from East London to Syria, where she married an ISIS fighter. When she was pregnant with the third child, her husband and children died; which made her want to return to Britain. The British Government accused her of marrying an ISIS fighter and directed her to apologize for her frivolous and thoughtless decision in order for the government to grant her entry into the UK. It was highly ironic that a country like the United Kingdom that practised liberal democracy was being restrictive when it came to granting certain rights and freedom like choosing a partner out of one’s own will. Shamima refused to acknowledge that her decision of marrying an ISIS militant was a mistake; thereby, the government revoked her citizenship. Even the Bangladeshi Government was not willing to accept her. Another popular case of Hoda Muthana, a US resident who fled to Syria leaving her home in Alabama, caught the attention of quite a few. The death of her husband during a war in Mosul, in 2017 left her in a state of shock. She felt she had experienced enough sorrow, and wanted to return to America to provide a peaceful life to her young son. However, the US Government blocked her request. Amy, a Canadian who married her boyfriend and followed him to Syria with their two children, talked about the continuous bombings in Syria that disrupted the education of her children. After her spouse got killed in 2017, she remarried and was pregnant with her second husband’s child, when he too got shot within three months of marriage. She requested the Canadian government to grant her return as she craved a safe environment for her children. When the Canadian government showed no sympathy to Amy, she revealed that was very disappointed with her country; that further pushed her to join the Islamic forces without an iota of contriteness. She didn’t consider herself as a culprit as she didn’t harm or kill anybody. According to her, she just loved a man and followed his orders; and if her country was not going to show mercy, she didn’t have the need to remain lawful and non-violent.
These case studies prove that the international community is suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis and it’s not only that these Jihadi brides are facing hardships, but also the children born out of these marriages are suffering. The governments are unwilling to get their stranded citizens back from the camps. What are these children punished for? The menial living conditions experienced by the children in camps and refugee shelters scar them for lives, and most of these children end up joining the non-state actors. The children have the right to live, get proper health benefits and education; and hence, these stranded widows are doing nothing wrong in demanding these basic amenities. There are multiple such stories in the lachrymose eyes of the brides, waiting for their states to accept them. Some filled with guilt while others without being apologetic for their past actions which led to such circumstances. Hence, turning down their request straight away and abandoning them would further create a rift between them and the state, giving them reasons to take up arms against the state. A state cannot let its women take the wrong path. As Desmond Tutu, a South African human rights activist correctly said, “If we are going to see the real development in the world, then our best investment is WOMEN.”
Moreover, the clouds of uncertainty loom over the decision-makers as it is troublesome to follow a single plan of action. Simply allowing ISIS brides to move back to their homelands can have adverse outcomes. What if the sentiments of guilt are just to get an allowance to enter a state and carry out violent activities surreptitiously? The Global Extremism Monitor recorded 100 different suicide attacks carried out by 181 female militants. So, one cannot disregard the apprehension of the states that these widows might have feelings of retaliation for the losses of their loved ones, which perhaps might result in mobilizing support for an army of next-generation ‘Mujahideen’ (holy warriors). Therefore, the solution to this grave issue lies somewhere between the two extremes. First of all, the international community needs more female police officers who could address the issues ISIS brides and widows are facing, at personal levels. A rigorous procedure should be followed before granting those women entry to their respective places. A separate tribunal should be formed at an international level, where every woman who wishes to return should face a trial. Psychoanalysis can be done by preparing a questionnaire for them, which would help the receiving state get a better picture of their state of mind and intentions. Psychiatrists and psychologists should be present in sufficient numbers to deal with the problems of these brides. Deradicalizing their thought process will not be an easy task, but treating them with hostility can make the situation worse. These women have to be guided with utmost care; while turning a blind eye to this problem might prove to be a blunder for the world in the upcoming years.
Edited by B.S Ashish
Image credits – BBC