What Becomes of Returning ISIS Fighters?


Graphic from the Washington Post[1]

Since the Islamic State’s collapse in Syria and Iraq, returning jihadists pose a problem to countries that don’t know how to handle the risk they present. While most are imprisoned, some are being rehabilitated. The rehabilitation process is costly and long and it raises questions about how to deal with radicalized individuals and avoid additional radicalization and violence[2].

Solutions for de-radicalizing jihadists and their children are hardly one-size-fits-all. Especially when the people in question were not directly involved in attacks or violence, but could still radicalize others. While most countries have addressed the problem of returnees in their respective criminal justice systems, some critics have been vocal about potential negative ramifications.

In an interview with I.R.I.N. (Integrated Regional Information Networks), the father of a radicalized Kosovan fighter states that steep jail sentences will not help returnees, but rather encourage more people to become radicalized[3]. That may be true. By punishing returnees harshly, states run the risk of giving extremist groups more reasons to feel antagonized and persecuted, which they, in turn, could use in their rhetoric when radicalizing others.

The problem is that there are limited options for such people. While de-radicalization programs exist, they are costly and must be tailored to each individual. The programs work if done properly, but with approximately 5,600 fighters returning home, it is difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate so many at-risk people[4].

That said, mass incarceration does not eliminate the problem in the long run. A radicalized person needs to create a new identity and life purpose that does not revolve around violence. Therefore, a fusion of de-radicalization programs and incarceration might be the most efficient, realistic option for most states.

[1] Meko, Tim. Analysis | Islamic State fighters returning home. (Feb 22,2018.). Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/isis-returning-fighters/
[2] Meko, Tim. Analysis | Islamic State fighters returning home. (Feb 22,2018.). Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/isis-returning-fighters/
[3]Nianias, Helen. Lessons from Kosovo? How a European hotbed of Islamist extremism deals with returning fighters. (2018, March 2). https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/03/02/lessons-kosovo-how-european-hotbed-islamist-extremism-deals-returning-fighters
[4]  Meko, Tim. Analysis | Islamic State fighters returning home. (Feb 22,2018.). Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/isis-returning-fighters/

Recent Posts

Human Rights Abuses By The People’s Republic of China

Overview Out of the eleven million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang in China, between 800,000 and…

3 days ago

The European Union And Their Long-Term Commitment To Afghanistan

Since 2001, the European Union (EU) has shown its interest in Afghanistan, resulting in 4…

5 days ago

The Gulf States’ Relationship With Afghanistan And Peace

The Persian Gulf states have played an important role in Afghanistan’s conflict. Their prominence in…

1 week ago

Lessons To Be Learnt From Colombia’s Economic Reintegration Programs

A successful peace agreement does not guarantee lasting peace. The successful reintegration of ex-combatants back…

2 weeks ago

Rahmatullah Nabil Discusses Afghanistan’s Peace Process

An Impossible Task? Rahmatullah Nabil, Former Director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in…

2 weeks ago

Recent Domestic Terrorism Attacks In The United States

Nearly a week after tragedy struck in Atlanta, flags in the United States were briefly…

2 weeks ago