Two of the Spanish women who are wives and widows of Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists who were in detention camps under the control of Kurdish militias in northern Syria have arrived in Spain. In total two women and 13 children arrived at Torrejón de Ardoz military airport in Madrid.
The two women are Yolanda Martínez, 37, and Luna Fernández, 34. Yolanda Martínez has four children, while Luna Fernández is the mother of five children. Her eldest, aged 15, was separated from his mother and committed to a correctional institution. In addition, Martínez took care of four other orphans who were met by their grandparents.
According to the families’ lawyer, the two women have been arrested and were denied contact with their families. They will make a statement to the police before going to court. The children have already been placed with social services.
The State Department stated that the National Court “will proceed to legalise the procedural situation” of the women. The operation took several months “because of the complexity and the high-risk situation of the Syrian camps”.
At the end of the year the government took final steps to repatriate four women and 17 children and adolescents. The youngest was born in captivity and is only 3 years old. The rest of the minors have roots in Spain. However, they have been held in the custody of Kurdish militias since the defeat of ISIS in its last stronghold of Baguz in March 2019.
The recently repatriated women and children were held in the Al Roj detention camp in northeastern Syria. This is along the border with Turkey. This camp, houses 2,000 people linked to ISIS. These centres, where women and children are held indefinitely without judicial control, have become new ‘guantánamos’ in the middle of the Syrian desert.
The families of the repatriated children want to take over custody of the minors. They have fought them through the courts, politics and the media for over three years to bring about the return of the children. The social services will now have to assess the process.
The repatriation process of women is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Ministries of the Interior, Defence, Social Rights and Justice. The women will appear before the National Court. There is an ongoing investigation into their ties to the jihadist cell Brigade Al Andalus, to which their husbands belong. They could be accused of taking up residence in a foreign territory controlled by a terrorist organisation to cooperate with it. According to the Penal Code, that crime carries a prison sentence of up to five years. The women maintain that they did not fight or participate in any jihadist actions.