The government of Kyrgyzstan has said 95 wives and children of ISIL (ISIS) fighters have been repatriated from internment camps in Syria.
“The humanitarian mission on August 30, was carried out to repatriate citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic staying in a camp in northeast Syria,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
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“Thirty-one women and 64 children who are Kyrgyz citizens were transferred from Syria to Kyrgyzstan,” the ministry added, highlighting that as a part of this mission, the Kyrgyz Republic provided humanitarian assistance and necessary medicines to cater to the needs of the population of northeast Syria.
It is not clear how many more Kyrgyz nationals remain in the camps in Syria. The latest repatriation is the third such operation for the Central Asian country. It brought back 59 nationals in February this year and 79 from camps in Iraq in March 2021.
“The Kyrgyz side expresses special gratitude to the Government of the United States of America for providing all possible assistance and logistical support for the successful implementation of this repatriation event, as well as to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said, commenting on its recent operation.
Thousands of people from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – joined various foreign fighting groups, including the ISIL, particularly between 2013 and 2015.
The “caliphate”, which ISIL proclaimed across swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014, was declared defeated in 2019 following counteroffensives in Iraq and Syria.
Thousands of ISIL fighters and their family members continue to be held in detention centres and informal camps where US commanders have warned they could lead to an ISIL revival.
Despite repeated calls for their repatriation to hold their court trials, foreign governments have allowed only a trickle to return home, fearing security threats and domestic political backlashes.
Humanitarian groups have also highlighted that the detention camps, especially in Syria, are “life-threatening” for children.
“Human Rights Watch has visited al-Hol and Roj camps and other detention centers in northeast Syria several times since 2019, most recently in May 2022. Conditions for the children are life-threatening, deeply degrading, and in many cases, inhuman; their cumulative psychological impact may amount to torture,” the organisation said in a statement earlier this year.
“Neither the children nor the adults detained in northeast Syria have been brought before a judicial authority to determine the necessity and legality of their detention, making their detention arbitrary and unlawful,” Human Rights Watch added.