MOSCOW: As the end nears for the IS enclave in Syria and the fate of jihadists’ family members becomes a prescient issue, Russia can be seen as a pioneer in systematically returning children of Islamist fighters home.
A potential homecoming of the many foreign women who have gone to live in the IS “caliphate” and their children, many of whom were born there, has been a subject of debate in Russia, with some security chiefs seeing them as potential threats.
Earlier this month, 27 children, from four to 13 years old, were flown from Iraq to the Moscow region.
Clutching stuffed toys and bundled in winter jackets, the children were carried off the cargo plane to face the Russian winter after years in the desert.
After health exams, they would be given into the care of their uncles, aunts, and grandparents in the Russian North Caucasus, the majority-Muslim territory in the south of Russia that is home to most of the Russians that had joined the Islamic State group.
Another 30 children were brought back in late December.
“They attend school and kindergarten. Volunteers work with them and talk to them about what they have been through, explaining how they have been indoctrinated,” said Kheda Saratova, an advisor to Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has assumed a central role in the process of repatriating Islamists’ relatives.