While Sweden, one of Europe’s leading “jihadi exporters” per capita, has long been facing the problem of returning “foreign fighters,” jihadi widows stuck in the Middle East with their children is yet another dilemma to solve.
At least 12 women from Sweden, most of them jihadi widows, are still stuck in the Middle East, following their spouses’ demise. Together, they have about 30 children, ranging from newborns to six-year-olds, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.
In the aftermath of their spouses’ death and Daesh’s massive territorial losses, they are trying to get out of the war-torn Middle East, while their legal status and future remains uncertain.
According to psychologist Yassin Ekdahl, who previously worked for the national coordinator against violent extremism, the so-called “Daesh widows” include both converts to Islam and, young women who went away together with someone they fell in love with or married. Admittedly, some of them were ideologically motivated.
The majority of Sweden’s over 300 “foreign fighters” joined Daesh in 2015. Several dozen of them are expected to have died in combat, while half of them are estimated to have returned to Sweden. The rest are stuck in the Middle East, with unclear prospects.
Of the roughly 30 children, of whom Yassin Ekdahl is aware, many have been born in Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliphate.” The children lack Swedish IDs or passports, which poses an extra difficulty for their mothers to return officially.
Ekdahl, who maintains contact with the families of “jihadi widows'” in Sweden, argued that their relatives in Sweden continue to express concern over their choice to join the world’s most nefarious terrorist organization. Moreover, their anxiety skyrocketed when the decisive offensive against Raqqa started.
By Ekdahl’s own admission, while the relatives are still terrified over the fact that their daughters joined Daesh, they tend to take their grandchildren in defense, implying that they have never made any choice of their own. Ekdahl also claimed that none of the people he has been in contact with actually sympathized with ISIS.
Should the “jihadi widows” ever succeed in reaching Sweden, they are most likely to go unpunished, as they traveled down to the Middle East before April 2016, when the law on the prohibition of “terrorist travels” was first introduced.