Australia open to return of Daesh fighter’s orphaned children

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government the Red Cross so the orphaned children could leave Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 April 2019
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Australia open to return of Daesh fighter’s orphaned children

  • The fate of foreign fighters and their families has become a significant problem for governments
  • Foreigners at the Daesh camp are from some 30 to 40 countries

CANBERRA: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday he was open to allowing the return of orphaned children of an Australian extremist in a Syrian refugee camp following their desperate plea for help.
Morrison said his government was working with the Red Cross so the children could leave the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria and Australian officials could assess them.
“Where they might be in a position to return to Australia, we will cooperate with that process,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“Where there are Australians who are caught up in this situation, particularly as innocent children, we will do what I think Australians would expect us to do on their behalf.”
The PM added that he would not put “any Australian life at risk to extract people from these conflict zones,” a stance he has taken in recent weeks despite pleas from their grandmother Karen Nettleton.
Morrison’s comments came as Hoda Sharrouf — the 16-year-old daughter of Australian Daesh fighter Khaled Sharrouf — said she was worried about her siblings’ health, including 17-year-old sister Zaynab who is seven months pregnant and “very sick.”
“What about the children? What about the people that didn’t want to come here? What about the people that are stuck here and never wanted to be here in the first place? They don’t deserve this kind of treatment,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald from the camp.
“We’re Australians too. Australia needs to do something about it. They need to step up,” she said in an interview published Friday.
The Sydney Morning Herald said there were five children in the family seeking help — Hoda, Zaynab, their eight-year-old brother Hamzeh, and Zaynab’s two young children — Ayesha, 3, and Fatima, 2.
Sharrouf — the first Australian to have his citizenship stripped under anti-terrorism laws — left the country for Syria in 2013 with his wife Tara Nettleton, two daughters and three sons.
He made international headlines in 2014 when he posted an image on Twitter of another son holding a severed head.
He is believed to have died in a 2017 American air strike alongside his then pre-teen sons, while Nettleton reportedly died in 2015.
The fate of foreign fighters and their families has become a significant problem for governments as the conflict against Daesh draws to a close. Foreigners at the camp are from some 30 to 40 countries.
The Red Cross said Wednesday it wanted hundreds of children of foreign fighters living in the camp to be allowed to return home.
France last month took in five orphans and is dealing with returns on a case-by-case basis.


Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

In this handout photo taken and released by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Communication Department on July 19, 2019, Indian politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (2L) meets Sonbhadra massacre victims at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Trauma Centre in Varanasi. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019
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Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

  • Priyanka Gandhi’s protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families

NEW DELHI: A political standoff over detained Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi ended on Saturday after she was allowed to meet relatives of 10 people killed in a caste clash in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress general secretary and sister of outgoing party president Rahul Gandhi was detained in Mirzapur on Friday while traveling to Sonbhadra to visit family members of 10 people shot and killed in a land dispute a day earlier.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Yogi Adityanath, detained Gandhi for violating the peace and stopped her from traveling further. The Congress leader then began a sit-in protest with her supporters at the Mirzapur guest house where she was held.
Her protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families. Television images showed Gandhi sitting in the dark after power and water supplies in the guest house were allegedly cut off by the local administration.
Her presence in the area, which also falls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, galvanized Congress workers who staged protests across the state.
Early on Saturday, relatives of some of the victims visited the guest house to meet the 47-year-old leader of the Gandhi-Nehru family, India’s pre-eminent political dynasty.
“My objective has been served as I have met the victims of the shooting,” said Gandhi before calling off her protest.
“The responsibility for the Sonbhadra massacre lies with the Yogi government,” she said.
Gandhi told her supporters, “I will be back,” before flying to New Delhi.
The BJP has accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the shootings.
“Congress has a history of playing politics over dead bodies,” said Swatantra Dev Singh, BJP president in Uttar Pradesh.
“The drama should stop. That is what I will say to Priyanka. All the accused have been arrested, and the officials responsible have been suspended,” he said.
The fatal shootings in Sonbhadra, 800 km southeast of New Delhi, drew mainstream media attention only when the Congress leader arrived in the state.
Observers say that the killing of 10 socially marginalized and landless tribes people by members of the dominant caste has highlighted the fragile caste situation in India’s most populous state.
The people of Gond tribe have been working the disputed land for generations. According to reports, the village head wanted tribes people to vacate the farm land. This led to conflict, and on Friday more than 200 armed men attacked the helpless villagers, killing 10 and injuring several others.
Gandhi, who entered politics only a few months before the general elections in May this year, seized the opportunity to connect with the people.
For the BJP, Uttar Pradesh is the jewel in the crown. The state gave the party 62 of its 303 parliamentary seats, and it is determined to maintain its political grip.
Political analysts say that Gandhi is determined to revive the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh by 2022 when the state goes to the polls.
“Priyanka Gandhi handled the Sonbhadra incident in a mature way, exposing the ham-fisted attitude of the Yogi government,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based analyst and author.
“She also managed to expose the BJP’s class bias  and how the ruling party is protecting the interests of  dominant caste in the state,” said Mukhopadhyay.
“This incident gives the party a chance to go back to the people immediately after the huge loss in the elections,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News.
Lucknow-based political analyst Ram Dutt Tripathi said that Gandhi has “shown her courage as a political leader willing to fight administrative injustice.”
“Her detention was illegal and the Congress has high hopes that she can lead the revival of the party,” said Tripathi.
“It is unfortunate that the state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has not visited relatives of the victims so far and is putting restrictions on political opponents who want to stand with them,” he said.