Uzbekistan announced on Friday, October 11 that 64 children had arrived in the Central Asian country from Iraq where their parents are serving life sentences “as members of terrorist organizations.”
The Uzbek foreign ministry said the children were brought to the country by plane Thursday night thanks to a joint effort involving the authorities of both countries and the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.
The ministry said the children – 14 of them under the age of three – had suffered “moral, psychological and physical problems” after their parents chose “a wrong path” by joining militant groups there.
The children will be housed in special accommodations where they will receive “medical, psychological and social assistance by specialists,” the ministry said, adding that the parents had given permission for the repatriation.
So far three Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – have brought citizens back from either Syria or Iraq where thousands from the Muslim-majority region joined Islamic State and other jihadist groups.
Kyrgyzstan has also said it intends to bring citizens back from Iraq in the near future.
Uzbekistan’s foreign minister said in September it planned to bring 235 citizens, including 65 children, to the country from Iraq after it repatriated 156 citizens from there in May.
The ministry did not say when the adults would return and whether they would be punished.
The fall of Islamic State’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria has left many countries grappling with what to do with the militants and their relatives.
Many of their countries of origin have been reluctant to repatriate them or put them on trial at home.
The largest repatriation effort by a European country so far saw Kosovo in April take back 110 of its nationals from Syria – mostly the wives and children of ISIS fighters.
With reporting from AFP