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Scandinavian Children at Al Hol Camp, Repatriation and Fear of Terrorist Attack

This is a machine translation of an article published on the platform of Norway in the Norwegian language dealing with the reluctance to repatriate children who were born to parents who were members of the Islamic State who carried their children to IS or they were born in the IS and survived the holocaust, many of them orphans. The reason given for leaving the children at Al Hol is the fear of terrorist attacks by radicalised children of IS but no one speaks to the methodology of how to assess these children to determine their propensity for violence. This is an issue of crucial relevance to T&T given the size of the contingent of our children at Al Hol and talk of "feverish work" on amendments to the anti-terrorism act which will enable the children, the women and men to be repatriated from the camps and prisons of NE Syria.

Bring home the grandchildren from the al-Hol camp: - No signs that they are radicalised

In 2019, he saved all seven from a grim fate in Syria. Now he contributes to research on Scandinavian war children.

Four years ago, Patricio Galvez sat on a plane to Syria with a suitcase full of toys and children's clothes.

His daughter was killed in a grenade attack, and the IS fighter she was married to died in the final attack against the extremist group.

With this, the seven children were orphaned, and alone in the infamous

al-Hol camp.

In a hospital in Erbil, he met them for the first time, malnourished and sick. The eldest boy showed signs of severe trauma after seeing his father shot and killed.

The grandfather says to NRK that he thinks they have done quite well under the circumstances.

He says they are happy at their schools in Sweden, and have friends they love to play with. Some have started basketball, tennis and swimming. One child likes to sing.

They are not so small anymore. The oldest are almost teenagers, and the youngest turns five this year.

- He was close to death twice, but is today a very strong and wise boy. It is very beautiful to see him running and laughing. He's very lazy, a bit like me. A bit of the same Latino look, says the Swedish-Chilean, laughing.

- The first need the children had was just to feel safe again, and that they were together with family. They simply needed to feel loved again, and to feel that they hadn't done anything wrong.

Recently, Galvez has been contacted by several universities, for research on war children and radicalisation.

One, at Lund University, compares the way children of German soldiers were treated by Scandinavian countries after the Second World War with the way children of IS soldiers are treated today.

Galvez believes the project is important. He criticizes the Scandinavian countries for a lack of protection for their own children's rights, when the children are outside the country's borders.

A breach in the system

When Galvez first learned that his daughter and the children's father had been killed , he asked the authorities in Sweden for help in getting the children home.

- In Sweden, we have the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children should get help immediately, but they did not give that help. They acted on the assumption that people thought the children were ticking bombs, says Galvez.

He says that Norway, and "above all" Denmark, have shown reluctance to bring home children from the al-Hol camp.

- So there is a shortcoming there that we really should investigate and correct, because it is a great frustration for us who end up in these conflicts.

Today, the children live in foster families, which Galvez says he and their grandmother were involved in choosing.

In recent years, they have been able to visit each other "as much as we want and can", according to Galvez.

He thinks the Swedish authorities have done a good job of taking care of them after they arrived in Sweden.

Will learn from the post-war period

Martina Koegeler-Abdi is a postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Human Rights and History at Lund University.

She has recently been researching Scandinavian war children, who are called Children born of war (CBOW) in English.

The purpose is not to compare the ideologies of the Nazis and IS, but to look at their status as children of "mothers met with distrust and fathers who are enemies".

Koegeler-Abdi believes that the historical perspective can help to "solve" what she calls a stagnant process, where the country avoids deciding whether the children who are abandoned should be taken home or not.

- International aid organizations and UN organizations are very clear that, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a state's responsibility should not stop at national borders. The Norwegian and Swedish authorities disagree, but at the same time recognize the humanitarian needs of these children. So there is a strange standstill. Nothing happens.

- The way this strange contradiction emerges, "yes we want to save the children, but no it is more important to punish the mothers", and how the punishment of the mothers trumps the children's needs as long as they are outside of Scandinavia, I think this resonates very strongly with examples from second world war.

Debate about where one belongs

Most of the Scandinavian children whose fathers were German soldiers remained in Norway and Denmark after the Second World War.

A couple of hundred traveled to Germany and were left there after the war ended.

Of the children who are supposed to have been repatriated from Germany after the war, Koegeler-Abdi has found archived evidence of debate about 97 Norwegians, 32 Danes, five Finns and one Swede.

Until now, she has mostly spoken to adult war children who have a German father and a Danish mother.

She says that after the war the international welfare offices had to define war children as "non-German", and thus "innocent", in order for them to be valid candidates for government aid.

In today's debate about repatriating children of Scandinavians in IS, it is largely about the danger of radicalisation, she says.

- I think that a shift from calling these children "terrorist children" to "war children" is a way of destigmatizing the situation.

- If you only think about the terrible things IS has done, it seems that children's rights are losing their footing.

Fear of radicalisation

The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has collected the experiences of around a hundred children who have returned to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, among others.

They have, in the same way as Galvez, experienced that the children were able to settle "surprisingly well" after they were brought home to these countries.

- Children who have been rescued from the horrors of the camps are doing well at school, have made new friends and are building new lives in their home countries, says Jo Becker, who is director of children's rights at HRW.

Norway is not mentioned in the report, but has so far accepted eight children. There are currently four Norwegian children interned in Syria.

Sweden is one of the countries that receives sharp criticism. HRW writes that reunifications have been difficult and in some cases led to the children being exposed to further stress.

Galvez believes that the authorities, police and organizations that work with radicalization must cooperate better with relatives and relatives.

- Indoctrination, of course it happens all the time and systematically, above all in a context where you are in an area where the way of thinking is as open as it was during the caliphate.

- But now my grandchildren have returned to Sweden. They grow up with completely different values, and a place with different values ​​and different opinions, where they themselves can explore what is right and wrong. There are no signs that they are radicalised. I think the opposite is the case, actually.


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