Abdullah Al-Khalaf – Raqqa
The fate led her to marry a Moroccan national who was an ISIS combatant. She gave birth to a daughter from him in 2016. A year later, her husband went missing during the battle to liberate Raqqa from ISIS. Until this day, she knows nothing about him.
Marwa, 33-years-old and originally from the city of Raqqa, is not concerned about her husband’s fate as much as she worries about the future of her seven-year-old daughter who hasn’t been able to attend school and learn like other children.
Marwa says that her daughter was born with a disability in her lower limbs, and she is currently trying to treat her. However, the cost of surgeries in northeast Syria is extremely high, and she cannot afford it. She explains, “There is free treatment for my daughter in Damascus, but I cannot take her there because she doesn’t have any identification documents. So, the main problem is related to the documents issue.”
Marwa and her daughter were detained in Al-Hawl camp for three years. She was released on bail by a clan leader, but she faced many difficulties in reintegrating into her community upon her return. She says, “There is a strong stigma from society against us, labeling us as ISIS families. There are cases of bullying and rejection, even in finding a house to rent or getting a job, which is very challenging. I applied for a job with an organization, and I was rejected because I was married to an ISIS member.”
Marwa tried to travel and, through social media research, she managed to reach her husband’s sister in Morocco. She asked her for help in treating her niece or obtaining a passport for the girl and assisting them in traveling to her husband’s country. However, her sister-in-law refused to help, citing security concerns.
Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Article 6 also states that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law”.
However, Syrian law discriminates based on gender in granting nationality. Syrian women married to foreigners are deprived of the right to grant nationality to their children. In Article 3, paragraph (A) of the Syrian Nationality Law, which was enacted in 1969 by Legislative Decree No. 276, the right to grant nationality is limited to males and a few other cases.
The article states that a person is considered a Syrian Arab if they were born within or outside the country from a Syrian Arab father, or if they were born within the country from a Syrian Arab mother whose affiliation to her father has not been legally established, or if they were born within the country from unknown parents, and other cases.
Recently, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a legislative decree to regulate the affairs of stateless children, create a supportive environment for their upbringing and education, ensure their enjoyment of all rights without discrimination, and establish what is known as the “Homes of Melody of Life” for their care. This decree complements the 1969 decree and regulates the care for these children.
As for whether the children of Syrian women married to foreign migrants can benefit from this law and obtain nationality, former judge Mohammed Al-Dayl says, “If the woman does not know the real name or nationality of her husband, she has the right to file a lawsuit, and her child can obtain Syrian nationality.”
However, he points out that it is not easy due to the security conditions and the fear of women going to areas under the control of the Syrian government to file a lawsuit, fearing arrest on charges related to terrorism. He adds, “These security difficulties are not limited to Syria only. Even in other countries, if the husband is from the Gulf states or the Arab Maghreb region, for example, you find that their relatives often do not help wives and their children fearing security prosecution.”
Civil society organizations, in cooperation with clan leaders, activists, and human rights advocates, are seeking temporary solutions to assist women who are married to foreign combatants and have children from them, especially women who have returned from Al-Hawl camp in the eastern countryside of Hasakah, with the aim of reintegrating them into the community.
The Oxygen Shabab Organization established the Raqqa Conflict Resolution Committee in 2021, which provides relief, social, and legal services, in addition to resolving problems related to families returning from Al-Hawl camp to Raqqa.
Al-Dayl is a member of this committee. He says they sought to solve the identification document problem by issuing temporary identity cards from the Autonomous Administration in northeast Syria. He explains: “These documents facilitate children’s access to schools, receiving assistance from organizations, and managing their affairs in northeastern Syria.”
There are no official statistics on the number of children of Syrian women from foreign ISIS members. However, according to the Conflict Resolution Committee, they have reached 14 women in Raqqa who have 33 children from “foreign” fathers. The committee provides services to these women and their children.
According to the Oxygen Shabab Organization, the actual number is much higher, as many women fear disclosing their situations. It is worth mentioning that during the preparation of this article, we contacted several women, but they refused to speak due to security concerns. According to the Raqqa Civil Council, about 900 families returned from Al-Hawl camp to Raqqa between 2018 and 2021, and the number of children in these families exceeds 3,000.
In northwestern Syria, Syrian activists launched the “Who is Your Husband?” campaign to document the number of children born from marriages between Syrian women and foreign jihadist members and to raise awareness about the consequences of these marriages. The campaign documented 1,735 cases of Syrian women marrying foreign fighters, specifically in the areas of influence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Among them, 1,424 women have given birth to 1,826 children.
Although everyone has the right to a nationality, and it is not permissible to arbitrarily deprive anyone of their nationality or their right to change their nationality, according to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these children do not enjoy any of these rights emphasized by the international laws.