Two Belgian women who joined the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria said on Sunday they were losing hope of ever going back home after a Belgian court overturned a ruling to repatriate them and their six children.
Tatiana Wielandt and Bouchra Abouallal, 26, both left ISIL after they saw how militants murdered people, including foreigners, who had joined the cause. They are now living in the Ain Issa camp in northern Syria.
Last year, a judge ordered Belgium to allow the two women and their children to return but the state decided to fight against the ruling and won the appeal back in February.
In the first interview since Belgium won the appeal, Wielandt told Reuters her children couldn’t continue living in a refugee camp. “They have no education. They have nothing,” she said.
Belgium said it would abide by a 2017 decision to receive all children — of Belgian nationals — under 10 from Iraq and Syria but it is no longer required to act in the case of the six children.
Both mothers said they were ready to send their children back to Belgium alone if it was the only way to secure them a better life.
Many European nations are struggling to decide whether to allow back women who left to join ISIL and the children they’ve had with militants as the self-declared caliphate disintegrates.
Britain's interior minister Saji Javid came under harsh criticism for not allowing Shamima Begum's newborn son Jarrah to go to the UK. The baby died of pneumonia last week.
US-backed forces in Syria who have captured thousands of foreign jihadists along with their wives and children said they cannot hold them for much longer.
Both women surrendered to Kurdish forces in 2017 after ISIL lost its base in Raqqa city, where they lived. They told Reuters they spent two months in prison before being sent to a camp in the northeast.
Wielandt converted to Islam to marry Abouallal's brother in her teenage years. Both, Wielandt and Abouallal, left for Syria with their husbands and a baby each.
Their husbands died within a year and the two women returned to Belgium each pregnant with a second child in 2014.
But the women didn’t stay in Belgium for long. In 2015, they decided to return to Syria and both of them got remarried and had more children.
The sisters-in-law said they were ready to face punishment if they returned to Belgium.
"I don't even fight this. I made a mistake and I need to get punished for it," said Abouallal. "If I ever go back to Belgium, I hope they give me an injection or whatever to forget this whole part of our lives."
According to security sources, there are still 17 Belgian women and 32 children in Syria.