ISIS members continue to shelter in Turkey, some with captive Yazidi women
Faced with the continued presence of Islamic State (ISIS) cells within its borders, the Turkish state has been slow to respond to potential threats posed by the group, as well as inconsistencies in the judicial system’s handling of IS suspects and the plight of Yazidis still held captive by some IS members in Turkey, an article signed by Hale Gonultas in the Turkish recap said.
Gonultas, a journalist known to cover the rescue operations of Yazidi girls in Turkey, explained how several Yazidi families have managed to reach out to children in IS captivity and secured their release.
Yazidi families buy their relatives’ freedom
“So-called “secure intermediaries” emerge when an IS member attempts to sell a Yazidi on the dark web or communicates with the Yazidi families seeking to “buy” their relative’s freedom. The intermediaries’ profile often involves criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, extortion, battery, and IS membership starting from 2011-2012, though they usually did not fully adapt to rule under the extremist group. These criminals would then return to Turkey through illegal routes with “war plunder” (such as a Yazidi woman or girl).” she said.
Jihadist returnees from Syria
In the article, Gonultas also detailed the presence of IS militants in Turkey. She said that following the IS’s defeat in 2017, militants who came back from Syria settled in Turkey.
“Currently, IS members that have returned are residing in the Turkish provinces of Antakya, Batman, Bursa, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Kırşehir, Konya, Yalova and Yozgat, with the largest groups in Ankara and İstanbul, according to data found in indictments and based on publicly available information regarding the location of where counterterrorism operations targeting IS are carried out,” she said.
Human smuggling by Free Syrian Army
Gonultas also claimed that many of the Syrian and Iraqi FSA (Free Syrian Army) fighters based in Turkey make their living by engaging in human smuggling.
“These smugglers provide one of few remaining options for families wanting to bring their daughters, daughters-in-law and grandchildren into Turkey informally, without registering them in the legal system. Grandparents and families desperate to retrieve their relatives from the al-Hol and al-Roj detention camps run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), pay FSA members between 40,000-50,000 euros to smuggle them out,” she said.
Remorse Clause lowers prison sentences
Gonultas said that despite monthly counterterrorism operations and alleged IS members being detained, quite often their legal defense team will make use of the effective remorse clause in the Turkish Penal Code, which lowers the duration of their prison sentence. She claimed that the IS members then return to their regular quiet lives in their neighborhoods, operating or working in small businesses.
“Such counterterrorism raids and legal procedures do not prevent IS members from sheltering, transferring money and smuggling people,” Gonultas said.
Four Yazidi women up for sale by ISIS
Gonultas said that between June 2021 and August 2022, at least four more Yazidi women (two of which have been made public) were put up for sale by IS members in Turkey. All were bought and returned to their families in Ankara and subsequently left the country, she said.