Turkey’s pro-government media is celebrating an operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization that “rescued” a Moldovan woman and her four children from “terrorists in northern Syria.”
In the language of Turkey’s pro-government media, what this actually means is Turkey’s intelligence service apparently smuggled a woman and children out of an area in eastern Syria that is under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The entire story appeared to shed light on a larger issue. Tens of thousands of ISIS members, including their families, ended up detained in eastern Syria in the last several years as the SDF and the US-led coalition forces defeated ISIS.
Thousands of these detainees in eastern Syria are citizens of foreign countries. Because the SDF is not a state, but a non-state actor, most foreign ministries of countries prefer not to negotiate directly with it regarding ISIS detainees. This leaves the detainees in limbo.
The more than 70 countries that are partners of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition mostly don’t want their citizens back. For instance, last week, the case of Shamima Begum, a former British citizen who traveled to live under ISIS control as a teenager, has been in the spotlight. While the UK tried to rid itself of thousands of its citizens who joined ISIS, a court has now ruled that Begum can return to the UK to contest the attempt to strip her of citizenship.