A foreign ISIS female member walks into a court room in Baghdad on February 20, 2018. Photo: AFP | stringer
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Thirty children of foreign ISIS fighters are on a flight to Russia, according to the Chechen leader who helped arrange their return.
“Several minutes ago, a special flight took off from Baghdad’s international airport and now is heading for Moscow. It is carrying 30 children who were kept at prisons in Iraq until today,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced on his Telegram channel on Sunday, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
“Twenty-four of them are from Dagestan, three are from Chechnya and the rest are from Moscow and Penza,” he added.
More than 100 women and children from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan have already been brought home through the Chechen authorities, according to TASS.
The mothers of the 30 children are in prison in Iraq on charges of membership in ISIS and the fathers are believed to have been killed in combat, a Russian diplomatic source told AFP.
The children are being brought to Russia after more than a year of effort from a commission that drew together Russia’s foreign, health, and education ministries, under the guidance of Russia’s ombudsman for the rights of the child.
The commission has identified nearly 700 children of Russian citizens who have been taken by their parents to the Middle East.
Since August, ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova has been preparing the documents to repatriate 123 minors, most of them under the age of 10, whose mothers are being held in jail in Iraq, according to a statement on her website. These efforts are coordinated with Iraq’s judicial authorities.
Kuznestova was in Baghdad to oversee the return of the 30 children who flew out on Sunday.
Russia’s ombudsman for the rights of the child Anna Kuznetsova (L) met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad on Sunday. Photo: PM office
She met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi who said these children are victims and a “distinction must be made between humanitarian issues and terrorist crimes,” according to a statement from his office.
DNA testing has been done on the children to confirm their relationships with Russian citizens and their mothers, who remain in jail, have granted temporary custody to the family members in Russia, Kuznestova’s office detailed.
In her meeting with Abdul-Mahdi, she pointed out that many of the children were born in prison or had spent considerable amount of time behind bars and will need psychological treatment once they are in Russia.
Iraqi courts have handed down a number of death sentences and life imprisonment to foreign women convicted of membership in ISIS, including some Russians.
Human rights advocates have claimed the women have not received fair trials.
Updated at 10:29 pm