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The United States and the United Kingdom refuse to accept back citizens who left for IG. Repatriation Program Leaders – Russia

Since 2017, more than 160 women and children have returned to the country from the former terrorist territories. Not without the help of Ramzan Kadyrov.

Relatives from Dagestan meet at the airport of Grozny a child returned from Iraq Photo by Said Tsarnaev, RIA Novosti

On February 20, British authorities announced plans to strip 19-year-old Shamim Begum, who went to Syria to the territory of the Islamic State terrorist organization in 2015. She asked the authorities to help her and her child to return to their homeland, which caused a loud discussion in the country. At the same time, Donald Trump ordered not to let the 24-year-old native of Alabama, who left for the IG in 2014, go back to the USA.

Similar sentiments in government circles are common in other European countries, but not in Russia. In 2017, with the filing of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, the country launched a program for the repatriation of citizens from the IG, it concerned women and children. Since then, the project has undergone a number of changes, evoking criticism from the FSB, but human rights activists believe that Russia still leads in the number of citizens returned.

British Shamim Begum was deprived of citizenship and can be shared with the child

Begum left for IG in 2015, when she was still in school. There she married an action movie and bore him two children, but they died. By the beginning of February 2019, the superior forces of the Syrian troops recaptured all conquered territories from terrorists, not counting the village of Bagoz. Having lost faith in success, the husband Begum surrendered, and at that time a pregnant girl single-handedly reached the nearest refugee camp. There she asked for help from the British government to return home. ( wrote about this in detail ).

“I will not risk the lives of British people for the sake of searching for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state,” commented on the Begum case, British Security Secretary Ben Wallace. On February 20, the authorities announcedplans to deprive the girl of her citizenship in order to obtain grounds for not letting her into the country. “I do not know what to say. This is sad and disappointing, ”commented the decision of the British government to Begum.

Shamim Begum in an interview with the BBC

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid explained that such a decision is permitted by a 1981 law, the ultimate goal of which is “public good”. The head of department said that the law allows depriving a person of British citizenship if he can obtain the citizenship of another country.

According to the BBC, the authorities decided that Begum could obtain Bangladesh citizenship, since her mother immigrated to the UK from there, and according to local “blood line” law, the child automatically receives the parent’s citizenship. However, the government of Bangladesh has officially stated that Begum does not have citizenship and will not be allowed into the country.

At the time of this writing, the legal status of Begum is not clear. If she really does not have a second citizenship and the possibility of obtaining it, then she can challenge the decision of the British government in court.

In mid-February, when Begum was still a British subject, she gave birth to achild. He automatically received citizenship, which is not planned to deprive him. “Children should not suffer. If a parent loses British citizenship, it will not affect the rights of the child, ”said Foreign Minister Sajid Javid. Family lawyer Begum plans to go to Syria to get official permission from the girl to pick up her child in the UK.

American Mrs. Mutkhan does not want to be allowed back home, explaining that by his lack of citizenship

“I asked Secretary Mike Pompeo, and he fully agreed not to let Hodu Muthanna back to the country,” – wrote on Twitter Donald Trump on 21 February. Like the authorities of Great Britain, the American president decided not to allow the return of the girl who left for IS to the country.

24-year-old Muthana attended college in Alabama, and in 2014 she left for IG. There she married three times and actively called for “killing Americans” on Twitter. In February 2019, the girl ran off with her child, born on the territory of the IG, to a Syrian refugee camp. In a series of interviews, she repented of her deed: “When I went to Syria, I was a naive, angry and short-sighted girl.”

According to relatives, Muthana was born in New Jersey in 1994. Her father worked in the Yemen Consulate, but left the post several months before the birth of his daughter. The relatives promised to provide all the necessary documents proving the birth of Mutkhana in the USA, and in the extreme case go to court. By law, a child born in the United States automatically becomes a citizen by birthright


Muthana’s turn in an ABC interview

The US State Department stated that the girl had never been a citizen of the country, so the authorities have the right not to let her across borders. At the time of writing, Muthana is in a refugee camp in Syria.

A few days before paying attention to its history, Trump demanded that the European allies in the Middle East take back to his homeland 800 IG fighters of European origin, captured in Syria. Otherwise, the President of the United States hinted, these militants will be released from prison.

Russian Repatriation Plan

On August 2, 2017, a delegation of high-ranking officials, journalists and relatives of four-year-old Bilal Tagirov gathered at the airport in Grozny . In 2015, his father in secret from the former wife took the boy to Syria, and from there to Iraq to the territory of the “Islamic State”. For two years, the family did not know about their condition until in July 2017 the IG troops dislodged from Mosul.

Among the city ruins, Iraqi soldiers discovered Bilal and his father. The man was arrested, and the conversation with the boy was recorded on camera. The video hit the Internet, from where he got to the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. He promised to return the child to his homeland, and a month later it happened. Bilal became the first Russian citizen repatriated from the territory of the IG, but not the last.

At the peak of power, Islamic State terrorists controlled a territory the size of Great Britain with a population of more than 10 million people. Of these, approximately 40,000 – are from 80 countries, it said in the report of the International Center for the Study of extremism

Women and children in a truck that takes them to the nearest refugee camp. Photo The Guardian

For natural reasons, European countries do not want to return people endangering national security. The inevitable consequences of IG depletion lead to an increase in terrorist attacks in Europe, ” said British Member of Parliament Alex Carlisle. According to the estimates of human rights defenders in 2018, at least 730 children from foreign citizens were born on the former IS, including 566 children from citizens of Western Europe.

Nevertheless, only a small number of countries allocate forces for the repatriation of children from Syria and Iraq, including Georgia, Lebanon, Sudan, Indonesia, Russia and, from the beginning of 2019, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. In a conversation with , Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch for Europe and Central Asia, said that Russia takes the leading position in the program for the return of children. She is sure that other countries could also implement such plans: “Repatriation of children is possible and necessary, but this requires political will, unfortunately, not in all cases it exists.

Residents of Chechnya expect Russian children returned from Iraq at the airport in Grozny, December 2017. Photo by Said Tsarnaev, RIA Novosti

After Bilat returned in August 2017, two more children repatriated to Russia, and in September, October and November, the program gained momentum. With the support of the government of Chechnya, not only children, but also women began to return from the former IS. In the same month, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov pointed to the threat that comes from such a policy: “It’s no secret that these women and even children are used by the leaders of terrorists as recruiters.

Bortnikov’s statement went against Kadyrov’s views. However, at the end of December 2017, Vladimir Putin at the annual press conference sided with the head of Chechnya, praising his actions. “As for the children. This is the most important thing after all. We are doing this, we have a whole program of returning children to their homeland in Russia, ”the president said , without saying anything about the return of Russian women from Syria and Iraq.

As Lokshina told, in December the active phase of the program slowed down. In February 2018, two more children were brought to Russia, and “then the repatriation program stopped. Although there were no official statements about its termination, ”the human rights activist says. Kheda Saratova , a member of the human rights council under the head of Chechnya, suspected that the reason for stopping the campaign to export Russians was the special services.

By February 2018, 105 children and 21 women returned to Russia from Iraq and Syria under the “Kadyrov program” . Some of them were detained immediately after arriving home.

As Lokshina says, many residents of Russia, not only from the North Caucasus, had high hopes for the so-called Kadyrov program. So when she paused without any explanation, it was a shock for many.

People who have stuck there daughters and grandchildren, were incredibly encouraged by this program. They appealed hundreds to Grozny, to the Kadyrov’s administration, hoping that their relatives would be returned to their homeland. After all, one special flight, a second flight, a third flight, and people from various places in Russia experienced a surge of hope. There were more and more flights, and then everything seemed to sink into a black hole. And these people are in despair, they run, knocking on all the doors, and no one explains anything to them. Only after a year of waiting is something happening.

Tatyana Lokshina
Program Director, Human Rights Watch Moscow Bureau

“Something is happening” means resuming the program after ten months. At the end of December 2018, an Emergencies Ministry plane arrived from Baghdad with 30 Russian children on board. “This is vivid evidence of the strict implementation of the instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin about saving women and children in Syria and Iraq,” Kadyrov wrote in his Telegram channel. He added that if they were not returned home, they would become “the prey of Western intelligence services.”


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Несколько минут назад из международного аэропорта Багдада взлетел спецрейс и взял курс на Москву. На его борту тридцать детей, которые до сих пор содержались в Ираке в местах лишения свободы. Из них 24 ребёнка из Дагестана, трое из Чечни, а также из Москвы и Пензы. Работа по решению проблемы возвращения российских детей на Родину ведётся по поручению Президента России Владимира Путина и не приостанавливалась ни на минуту. Так будет и дальше, пока не выполним поручение в полном объёме.

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Record of the shipment of 30 Russian children from Baghdad, December 2018

Now children are taken to Russia only from Iraq. There is a prison in Baghdad, where suspects of complicity with terrorism are sent, including Russian children and women. Some of them received life sentences, but thanks to the repatriation program they can help their children return home. Local Russian consuls interview women, obtaining from them written permission to transport their children and transfer them to relatives. The program involves the resources of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

The representative of Chechnya under the President of Russia Ziyad Sabsabi in an interview with the Daily Storm. According to the official, if Russia does not engage in the return of children, terrorists can recruit them

Lokshina does not know whether in the near future there will be repatriations of children from Syria. As the human rights activist Kheda Saratov toldKomsomolskaya Pravda, 643 children and 338 women with Russian citizenship live in the local Rukban refugee camp. “Over the past few days, a maximum of a week, three children have died of starvation,” said Saratova. She expressed her willingness to provide all the necessary information to help return children from Syria.

Another drawback of the program is that so far it concerns only children born in Russia. Others are not engaged yet, although by law a child born of two Russian citizens in another country automatically receives Russian citizenship. “Exactly like children who were taken away by their parents to ISIS, the babies born there did not choose this fate for themselves. It’s simply impossible to make a distinction here, ”Lokshina told .

On February 11, 2019, a special board of the Emergencies Ministry delivered 27 children to Baghdad prison to Russia. They were transferred to relatives and friends. There is a possibility that amid the almost complete defeat of the IS in Syria, the number of children repatriated to Russia will increase. As for women, there is no information about this.

On the repatriation of women at the moment there is no question. Now the program is actively working, and if in two months there were two large flights with children, then we hope that there will be more. But so far at the international level and against the background of what other states are doing and are not doing in terms of the repatriation of children, Russia looks very impressive.

Tatyana Lokshina
Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia
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