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'Seriously, Finland?' Minister criticised after Instagram poll on fate of IS women

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An Instagram post depicting Finnish Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni is seen on a phone running the Twitter app in Helsinki, Finland December 13, 2019.
An Instagram post depicting Finnish Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni is seen on a phone running the Twitter app in Helsinki, Finland December 13, 2019.   -  
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Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS
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Finland's new Finance Minister issued an apology after launching an Instagram poll on whether Finland should allow female citizens with links to the so-called Islamic State group to return from Syria.

The post sparked criticism and embarrassed the new, women-led government days after it took office.

Katri Kulmuni, who became finance minister only this week, had posted an informal poll asking her Instagram followers whether they backed repatriating "children only" or "children and mothers" from the al-Hol camp in Syria.

Kulmuni's Centre Party opposes letting the mothers return to Finland.

'Seriously, Finland?'

"Seriously, Finland? This is awful, if true," Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director of international watchdog Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

"A state should respect the rights of its citizens in all cases, not put life-and-death decisions about those citizens to a public referendum on social media. What's next, public hangings based on the volume of stadium cheers?"

Kulmuni, 32, said she had been expressing the views of the Centre Party which she leads, highlighting divisions on the issue with other parties in the five-party governing coalition.

"My aim to have a discussion on social media about a complicated topic failed. I apologise for the poll," Kulmuni tweeted on Friday. "My IG (Instagram) poll aroused condemnation, it has been removed. The style was unsuccessful."

The new prime minister, Sanna Marin, said on Wednesday the government had given its "silent blessing" for the foreign ministry to go ahead with a plan to repatriate the children.

But the children cannot be repatriated without their mothers because the Syrian Kurdish forces oppose separating the children and their mothers, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.

The Centre Party has been alarmed by the rise in polls of the nationalist Finns Party, which says repatriating Islamic State detainees could endanger Finland's security.

11 Finnish women and more than 30 children are currently held at al-Hol. The government faces questioning in parliament on the issue on Tuesday.

A European problem

Finland is one of many EU countries trying to decide what to do about their citizens who joined the ranks of jihadist fighters in Syria.

Europeans comprise a fifth of the around 10,000 militant fighters held captive by Kurdish militias.

Turkey has repeatedly accused EU nations of being too slow to take back their citizens and has started repatriations last month.

Denmark, Germany and Britain have so far revoked some citizenships.

READ MORE: Turkey deports one British and seven German jihadists to home countries

READ MORE: What is Europe's approach to repatriating ISIS members? | Euronews answers

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