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Stacey Meets the IS Brides

Stacey Meets the IS Brides
Back to ‘Our Films’
29 minutes
Almudena Garcia-Parrado
Almudena Garcia-Parrado
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

Stacey Dooley travels to Kurdish-controlled northern Syria to holding camps where she meets Western women who left their countries to join the Islamic State.  For now the Kurds are containing these women.  Some of them are still fervent IS supporters, while others say they just want to come home and face whatever consequences the courts decide.  Stacey also find the camps filled with European children.  Whatever the actions of their parents, these children are innocents for now, though the longer they stay in the camps, the more likely they are to be indoctrinated by radical jihadists.  The Kurds who are in control of this part of Syria are still fighting Russia and Assad’s forces to the south.   They say the Western powers should not expect the Kurds to be gaolers on their behalf indefinitely.  Panorama explores the question of what to do with the ISIS women and children left behind. 

Following the defeat of ISIS forces in Baghuz in March this year, thousands of foreign men and women were captured.  Many of the women married fighters and had children in Syria, among them Briton, Shamima Begum who had three children, all of whom have died either in the fighting or in the camps.  The Kurds, who control the northern part of Syria, are appealing to the international community to help them deal with the thousands of foreign women - sometimes referred to as ISIS Brides - many of whom are still dangerous IS sympathisers.  They want these women and their children to be dealt with by the countries they came from.  But many people  in Europe, America and Australia feel these women are dangerous terrorists, and have refused to repatriate them, or stripped them of citizenship.

Stacey Dooley visits the two main camps in northern Syria, al-Hol and al-Roj, meeting European, American and Australian women and their children, as well as talking to the Kurdish foreign minister and the remarkable female commander of al-Roj camp.

In al-Hol she talks to British women who are unapologetic about the atrocities committed in the name of ISIS, and demand to return to the UK.  Shamima Begum was in al-Hol when she was first filmed, but after speaking out she was stripped of her British citizenship.  At the same time, the ISIS leadership inside the camp decided Begum had not been sufficiently vocal in her support of ISIS, and she was moved from al-Hol in fear of her life.

Moving on to al-Roj, Stacey starts to unpick the complex forces at work - every woman she speaks to has to weigh every word.  They know there will be an impact of what they say back home and this might affect the chances of ever returning, or getting their children to safety. But at the same time the ISIS leadership inside the camp will be listening. As with Shamima Begum, they will view any betrayal as a capital offence. These women know their words could mean their freedom or their lives. As one woman puts it under her breathe to Stacey, “You will leave, we have to stay”.

Stacey is given extraordinary freedom to move around the both camps, which have until now been closed to journalists. She speaks to woman from many different Western countries.  Whatever offences they may or may not have committed, they are currently being held without trial in conditions that would certainly not be regarded as acceptable in their home countries.  And whatever their guilt or innocence, there can be no doubt that their children are wholly innocent - though every day they remain in the camps increases the likelihood that they will be radicalised and become devoted to the cause their fathers died for.  For now, the Kurds are containing these women and children as best they can, and are committed to treating them more humanely than ISIS treated its prisoners - however this is not a long term solution. Western powers should not expect the Kurds to be gaolers on their behalf indefinitely - Panorama explores the question of what to do with the ISIS women left behind.