SYDNEY - Family members of alleged Islamic State militants held in Syrian camps are urging the Australian government to repatriate dozens of its citizens.
Kamalle Dabboussy's Sydney-born daughter Mariam and her three young children are being held at the al-Roj refugee camp in north-east Syria. They are among about 60 Australians stranded there. The Australian government has said it was too dangerous for diplomatic staff to visit the region to try to bring them home.
Dabboussy believes the security situation is stable enough for his daughter and grandchildren to be brought home, but he has warned that volatility in the region could return at any time.
It is estimated that 10,000 suspected widows and children of former Islamic State fighters are among 70,000 people held in the al-Roj and al-Hawl detention camps, according to Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a U.S.-based foreign policy think tank, most are Iraqi and Syrian nationals. They were taken to the facilities after the jihadist group was defeated in 2019.
Charities have said the camps are beset by violence, food shortages and a lack of medical care. There are concerns that women and children are at risk of exploitation.
The United States and the European Union have warned that the camps could breed a new generation of militants.
Dabboussy told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that his daughter and three grandchildren should be brought home.
"Whatever you think of the women these children should not be in prison. These children should be in a safe environment at school getting on with their lives," he said. "Every day they face dangers. Every day these children lose some of their childhood."
Mariam Dabboussy said she was tricked into traveling to Syria while on a family holiday to Turkey in 2015.
Her husband, Kaled Zahab, an Islamic State fighter, was killed in an airstrike on a terrorist training camp. She has said she was forced to remarry twice after his death.
Germany and Finland have begun repatriating their citizens, allowing a total of five women and 18 children to return, according to reports. German media said three of the women were being investigated for allegations of belonging to the Islamic State and the Belgian government has just announced it will soon bring its citizens home.
Kamalle Dabboussy has urged Australia to follow their lead. He has written about his experiences trying to secure his daughter's return in a book called "A Father's Plea."
The government in Canberra has no comment on Mariam Dabboussy's case, but Defense Minister Peter Dutton has said previously that Islamic State widows held in camps in Syria were "not innocent women."