Ten Years in Syria: Maria G.

According to the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN), 330 people, including around 60 women from Austria, went to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State (IS). G. Perhaps the most famous of them all – and the case seems mysterious, not fitting any talk involving the young woman.

What motivated her to travel to Syria and how she was recruited remain somewhat unclear. An accident derailed her when she was a teenager, her parents recount in “Audio Pictures.” She dropped out of school and had no career direction. She developed a keen interest in Islam, says her boyfriend at the time. He is a Muslim and fled Somalia to Austria at a young age.

But their radicalization has put a strain on the relationship: As he describes it, he doesn’t see himself as particularly religious. She rejects his suggestion that they go to Saudi Arabia together. Against his parents’ wishes, he converted to Islam and attended two mosque associations in Salzburg. Condemned preachers now appeared in both clubs.

Social exclusion and IS propaganda

Political scientist Thomas Schmidinger, who focuses on Kurdistan, the Middle East, and jihadism, suspects an “alienation” from society in “audio images” as a constant motif in the biographies of jihadists. Schmidinger, who helped the family search for G., also points out that the young woman may have fallen for IS propaganda.

Your expressed desire to help children in Syria affected by the civil war was clearly initiated by IS. In June 2014, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. ISIS specifically recruited fighters and women from the West via the Internet — and many followed the call.

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International Arrest Warrant

Shortly after her disappearance, G. Contacted her parents from Turkey: she is going to Syria. After that, contact was sporadic. It is not clear where she was, but she later told her parents that she was married, but the man died in a fight two months later. She remarried in 2015 and gave birth to a son later in the year. At this point, he was already wanted on an international arrest warrant because he “voluntarily joined the terrorist organization Islamic State” and “traveled to its border in Syria.”

In 2017, G. When she got pregnant again, the situation was reversed. She found herself in contested territory – asking her parents for money to escape. 6,000 euros were handed over to a middleman, but the plan failed. It almost became the mother’s downfall, but in 2019 she was acquitted in court on charges of financing terrorism.

In the camp after the collapse of IS

In February 2019, the Kurdish-dominated and Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces defeated IS in the Battle of Bagus – marking the end of the IS caliphate. G. and his two sons were taken to Al-Hol camp. At the time, the camp, once established as a refugee camp, housed more than 70,000 people: many families of IS fighters, but also families fleeing terrorist fighters in a country at war.

To date, there are more than 40,000 people in the camp, more than 60 percent of whom are children and youth. Humanitarian conditions are deplorable and deplorable, and the UN and the US have also feared in recent years that the camp could become a breeding ground for a new IS.

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“Most Wanted” – but no extradition treaty

Ji’s parents appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to bring back their daughter and grandchildren. But the ministry only agreed to bring the children to Austria, but not their mother. The family refused citing the well-being of the children, but at the same time G. If returned, he promised to face the authorities for the alleged crimes.

At that time, G. He was wanted on an international arrest warrant and his image was on the Interior Ministry’s “most wanted” list, but extradition is unlikely because there is no deal related to Syria or the Kurdish region, according to the Justice Ministry. Management of the camp.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed all efforts, and in 2020 G. finally tried to defend herself, an attempt to escape failed, but she was taken to al-Rotch camp, which is small with about 2,500 people. More than 80 percent of IS fighters come from third countries, making up practically only women and children.

APA/AFP/Delil Souleiman

Women and children in al-Rodge

UN expert supports repatriation

Almost all European countries, not just Austria, should ask themselves how to deal with women who have joined IS now. Irish lawyer Fionnula Ní Allain, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the fight against terrorism, argues for the return of the “harpbuilder”: it’s “an obligation under international law”, but reunifying children is the smartest thing you can do “for reasons of safety and security”. ,” he says, referring to security experts.

Some European countries like France and Germany are already implementing this. Austria has brought four children to Austria so far, a pair of siblings in 2019 and 2022, whose Austrian parents have died.

The Ministry of External Affairs issued a notice rejecting the repatriation

Both events fueled G’s parents’ confidence. In September 2023, the family’s lawyer, Doris Havelka, obtained through the Federal Administrative Court that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should publish a decision instead of informal rejections. The result in October was negative: the woman had voluntarily joined IS terrorist fighters, it said in a statement. “It is particularly clear that there is a high level of personal debt.”

The prosecutor appealed against this decision – at the same time the arrest warrant against G. was canceled. There are no grounds for arrest: the accused is trying to return to Austria, there is no risk of committing a crime, and the suspicion is that he has traveled to and lives in IS territory, the Salzburg public prosecutor’s office said. .

The result is exactly ten years later

G. If returned to Austria, he would not expect an immediate arrest, but a trial and possible punishment if found guilty. The Federal Administrative Court will likely set the course for a return. Whether the court will make a binding decision or decide how to proceed remains to be seen. However, it happens on Friday, exactly ten years to the day since G disappeared from Austria.

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