Kazakhstan repatriates ‘foreign fighters’ from Syria

Kazakh military officer is carrying a child during Jusan humanitarian operation in 2019. [Astana Times]

Kazakhstan has repatriated another group of its nationals who have been in Syria alongside terrorist forces. Unlike some EU countries that are reluctant to take back their nationals, Kazakhstan is making the effort to re-integrate them, but also punish those guilty of terrorism.

According to an official communiqué on Thursday (4 February), the country’s National Security Committee, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with the support of the United States and other international partners, carried out an operation to return a group of Kazakhstan citizens from Syria to their homeland.

The group consists of four men, one woman and seven children, including two orphans. The statement said that, in accordance with the national legislation and international commitments, persons involved in terrorist activities will be prosecuted.

The orphans are to be transferred to the care of close relatives and the government will provide all the necessary assistance to them, while the woman and children will be provided with the rehabilitation and resocialisation programmes.

It said that the operation to repatriate citizens from zones of terrorist activities, sanctioned by the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is a continuation of Operation Zhusan, launched at the initiative of the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a three-phase operation conducted between January and May 2019, Kazakhstan repatriated 595 of its citizens and sent the majority of the women and children to adaptation and rehabilitation centres. Here, the returnees were given into the care of medical workers, psychologists and theologians before returning to their communities.

Europe still reluctant to repatriate its foreign fighters and families

Since the fall of the caliphate, thousands of European foreign fighters and their families have been stranded in Syria and Iraq. European capitals have been reluctant to repatriate their nationals and children born there, despite experts warning that inaction may be more dangerous in the long run.

Kazakhstan has also tried and sentenced 33 male fighters, who will also undergo rehabilitation while serving their sentences.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Benjamin Fox]

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