A fascinating article in the New York Times on 18 July, 2018 about Daesh prisoners being held in northern Syria. There are seven prisons holding 1,000 terrorists from up to 50 countries, captured by the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Their home countries aren’t too enthusiastic about having them back. The risk is that they could radicalise other prisoners in European and American jails and there could even be a difficulty in prosecuting them because they fought for a non-state entity.
However, the SDF doesn’t want to be an eternal jailer. Plus, there has already been one break out and there is a risk that the SDF could lose control of the territory on which the prisons stand. But the US has no wish to place more convicts in Guantánamo Bay and European countries are understandably nervous that to some people, these terrorists could be viewed as role models.
For the general public, there is likely to be little sympathy for the plight of these prisoners. Take for example El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey who formed half of what became known as “the Beatles” – four UK jihadis who carried out gruesome, filmed executions of western hostages with knives. The UK has stripped them of their citizenship and the US is wondering whether to prosecute them on American soil for killing US nationals.
At some point, the SDF will have to be relieved of their burden. One US expert warns that if these prisoners somehow attain their freedom, it could create a “wandering mujahedeen”, as has happened after past conflicts (Afghanistan), taking their jihadi ideology around the world.