CEP Policy Brief: Prosecution Of German Women Returning From Syria And Iraq

(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today published a new policy brief, Prosecution of German Women Returning from Syria and Iraq: Insights and Recommendations for Policymakers and Security Agencies, the first in a series of papers analyzing the prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration of returnees in four different European countries. Authored by CEP Senior Research Analyst Sofia Koller, this first installment presents CEP’s insights as well as policy and security recommendations regarding the prosecution of women who left Germany for territory controlled by ISIS in Syria and Iraq and have returned.

Over the last decade, approximately 25 percent of the individuals who left Germany to travel to Syria and Iraq—the majority of which joined ISIS—were women. Of those women who have returned to Germany, approximately 29 percent have been convicted for “membership in or support of a foreign terrorist organization,” with one also being convicted of aiding and abetting genocide.

These convictions have reaffirmed a common argument made by German prosecutors in recent years: that these women have not just been caring for their family and household; rather, their support of their family and household has in turn enabled their husbands to fight for ISIS and should be considered members of ISIS themselves. The cases have also highlighted the role that women with ISIS have played in offenses against Yazidi “slaves.”

The first step to enforce arrest warrants and enable prosecution is to repatriate all German citizens and minors and with a connection to Germany from Northeast Syria and Iraq. Additionally, in order to fairly adjudicate these cases, international efforts regarding access to “battlefield or military evidence” and cooperation with Yazidi communities must both be strengthened. As these cases continue to unfold, relevant law enforcement parties must have access to improved analysis and risk assessment tools to ensure the safety of the German and international communities.

For more information on the prosecution of female returnees in Germany well as CEP’s complete policy recommendations, the brief Prosecution of German Women Returning from Syria and Iraq is available here.

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Fact:

On September 23, 2021, the Houthis began a siege on Marib’s al-Abdiyah district, sparking a humanitarian crisis as the rebels blocked medical and other humanitarian aid. Aid workers on the ground accused the Houthis of committing genocide by denying access to humanitarian organizations and shelling hospitals and other vulnerable civilian targets.   

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