Indonesia to repatriate 600 jihadis from Syria
Fighters and their families are trapped in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. A de-radicalisation programme awaits them at home. For Religious Affairs minister, the decision is based on “humanitarian grounds”. For one expert, not all of them are “fundamentalists”.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia’s Minister for Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi announced that the Indonesian government is vetting a plan to repatriate about 600 Indonesian nationals who joined the Islamic State (IS) group to fight in Syria.
“The government has not yet decided the repatriation plan,’” said Razi, a retired army general. The issue, he noted, “is still being reviewed thoroughly by a variety of institutions under the coordination of Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Legal, and Security Affairs.” At the same time, “there are many things to consider, both positive and negative impacts”.
Today’s ministerial press release was also meant to clarify some earlier statements. On Saturday, Razi had announced that Indonesia’s National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT)[*] planned to repatriate some 600 jihadis on humanitarian grounds, who have been trapped in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria along with their families.
It is unclear how many of them actually hold Indonesian citizenship. The London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) reported in July 2018 that some 700 to 800 Indonesian were part of the Islamic State, including 113 women and about a hundred children. Of these, 183-300 had already returned.
“As soon as they got to Syria, the Indonesians burnt their passports,” Minister Razi explained. “For this reason, they are now stranded in a foreign country. For humanity’s sake, we are willing to facilitate their return home.”
Razi noted however that it will take time to "neutralise" their radicalism. To this end, moderate Islamic organisations will be called upon to provide full assistance to the Ministry’s de-radicalisation programme. He did not provide any details.
“The authorities have certainly looked closely at such a plan, which has sparked strong resistance in the public,” said Prof Adrianus Meliala, an expert criminologist and member of Indonesia’s Ombudsman Office, speaking to AsiaNews.
“It seems to me that the administration is convinced that it is appropriate on the basis of the following considerations:
“Not all Indonesian detainees in Syria are truly fundamentalists. Some were carried away by the [Islamist] 'current'. Compared to those who had 'converted' to Islamist ideology, they show remorse. And this could be sincere.
"As far as radicalised individuals are concerned, our government will most likely use them to track down their underground organisations and open a 'Pandora's box'.
“De-radicalisation comes with many more benefits, at lower costs, than tolerating underground movements”.
[*] Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme.