LISA SMITH’S Dundalk Road, a town in Ireland halfway between Belfast and Dublin, to the deadly Caliphate of ISIS (EAST) and vice versa, took a few turns. Former soldier, Ms. Smith converted to Islam and traveled to Syria in 2015 to live under EAST rule. Held by Kurdish fighters who helped bring down the Caliphate, she escaped when Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurds in October, only to be captured by Turkish proxies. Now Mrs. Smith and the two-year-old daughter she had with a British extremist are about to return home. “If all goes well,” said a Turkish official, the two will be on a plane to Ireland “in a few days”.
Many more are expected to follow. Since the start of the invasion, Turkey has accelerated the deportations of foreigners EAST combatants and sympathizers captured in Syria or locked up in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently warned that he would send them all to pack. “These doors will open and these EAST members will continue to be sent, “he said on November 12, speaking to European countries. “Then you can take care of your own problem.”
During its offensive, Turkey captured 287 people linked to EAST, mostly women and children, in addition to the approximately 1,500 foreign fighters already detained in Turkish prisons and expulsion centers. Hundreds of other activists are said to have fled during the fighting. Most of northeastern Syria remains in the hands of the Kurds, as well as the region’s prisons and camps, which house tens of thousands of activists and their families. External powers would like to keep it that way; America and Russia say Turkish assault has already offered EAST a chance to regroup and plot attacks in Syria and elsewhere. Turkey itself remains vulnerable to EAST recurrence. The head of the Iraqi military intelligence branch recently said that some of the group’s chief financiers had taken refuge in southern Turkey after bribing their way through Kurdish-held territory.
The deportations are not new. Turkey has already expatriated some 7,600 suspected combatants in recent years, officials in Ankara said. But Erdogan’s decision to speed up the process, as well as the Turkish invasion, have focused attention on the plight of thousands of foreigners, from hardened extremists to toddlers, who are crammed into prisons and camps. throughout the region.
Many European countries would prefer to stay there. Some have stripped dozens of their nationals of nationality. Governments fear political backlash that would result from authorizing returns, not to mention the devastating electoral consequences of any attack by returnees, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Collecting and prosecuting evidence is also a headache. Strict requirements for conviction mean that those returning to certain European countries can ICG said. Dozens of women and men have already returned from Syria without serving a prison sentence.
Mrs. Smith’s Expulsion Should Be Easy, However DNA tests may be required to confirm the identity of her daughter. Pursuing it will be much more difficult. The next front in the war against European jihadists will be back home and in court. ■
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the title “From the Caliphate to the Courtroom”