………………In a letter to his family in Germany, he wrote: “I miss you very much. Maybe you’ve heard I’ve been captured?” The letter was delivered via the Red Cross from a detention camp near the northern Syriantown of Qamishli. In another letter, he wrote: “Mama, please let me know how you’re all doing and whether you know how to get me out of here. What do the authorities say? I just want to come home. I want to get out of here.”
Bajram G., 25, is a German citizen and the son of immigrants from Kosovo. He was only 20-years-old and still in school when he disappeared from Germany and, according to investigators, joined Islamic State (IS). He is one of thousands of Islamists who left Europe to join the fight, a large number of whom are now sitting in prisons run by the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia YPG. These fighters of the “Caliphate” have now become prisoners of war.
The German government must now grapple with several difficult questions: How should it deal with these prisoners of war? Must someone like Bajram G. be repatriated? What would be done with him once he returned? So far, Berlin has yet to come up with any concrete answers.
Playing for Time
Authorities have been deliberating for some time about what to do with the overseas IS fighters. In the past few weeks, the defeat of the militant group has become tangible, with the last remaining fighters having barricaded themselves in an area smaller than a single square kilometer. Many foreign fighters have spent months, or even years, in prisons in northern Syria and Iraq — so far, without much prospect of ever returning home.
In recent months, the Syrian Kurds and their U.S. allies have pressured the Europeans to take back their citizens and put them on trial. But so far, the Europeans have been playing for time.
According to German diplomats, Berlin made the decision to not to get too involved with the imprisoned jihadists. “Our marching orders were, ‘We’re actually required to, but we’re not going to,'” says one official. Now, however, the clock on this evasive tactic has run out.
A recent tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump put the issue at the top of the agenda: “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them……..”