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Long legal battle awaits four Kerala women who joined ISIS

India is unlikely to allow the women to return

Nimisha alias Fathima Isa, Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Raffeala, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam | Image source: NIA Nimisha alias Fathima Isa, Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Raffeala, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam | Image source: NIA

There will be no homecoming for the four Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) brides from Kerala who are lodged in a prison in Afghanistan. But India will not be the first country to refuse entry to women who married ISIS fighters. Britain and France have both taken a strong stand to prevent these women from coming home. 

The four women believed to be Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Raffeala, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam and Nimisha alias Fathima Isa surrendered to Afghan authorities in November 2019. Their husbands had travelled to Afghanistan to join the ISKP.

There has so far been no official comment on the status of these women. But judging by the precedent set by Britain and France—where neither the women who left to marry ISIS fighters nor their children were allowed to return—the four women could be looking at a long legal battle.

In Britain, 21-year-old Shammia Begum has become the poster-girl for this legal battle. Her citizenship was cancelled by then home secretary Sajid Javid in 2019.

Begum who was born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents left Britain when she was 15. The Home Office cited a threat to national security to prevent her from coming home. Since then, Begum has appeared on television asking for forgiveness and begging to let her back in. She is not the only one. According to a BBC report that quotes a study done by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in Kings College, 52,808 men, women and children travelled to (or were born into) the areas of Iraq and Syria under IS control between 2013 and 2018. Now stateless, these women and children languish in camps in North Syria, hoping to find a country to take them.

Determined to return to Britain, Begum continued a legal battle. But in March, the Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling held that her rights were not breached when she was refused permission to return. 

Begum’s battle for citizenship—and it being cancelled—has been hotly debated across Britain. In France, too, the debate on whether to let women who married ISIS fighters return home from camps in Syria rages.  

In March, a group of women from Al Hol and Roj in Northern Syria, reportedly went on a hunger strike to get the French authorities to allow them and their children to return to France. Emilie Konig, a French ISIS bride—who has chosen like Begum to abandon the burqa for more Western clothes to project her ‘changed’ image—has been quoted as saying: 'I want to go home to France.” “I have my family there. I want to start my life over and right my mistakes.”

Will India be any different? 

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