Thursday, December 7, 2023

Opposition Grows to Repatriation of Former IS Fighters

February 7, 2020 | 2:18 am
A suspected Islamic State sympathizer is arrested in South Sumatra in July 2017. (Antara Photo)
A suspected Islamic State sympathizer is arrested in South Sumatra in July 2017. (Antara Photo)

Jakarta. More Indonesian top politicians have voiced opposition to the proposed repatriation of hundreds of former Islamic State fighters now living in foreign countries.

Even chief security minister Mahfud M.D. said he personally opposed the return of the so-called foreign terrorist fighters, or FTFs.

However, Mahfud said on Thursday the final decision would be made by a cabinet meeting led by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Prior to the meeting, a special team led by National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Suhardi Alius will draft two regulations: first, if the former fighters are allowed to return home; or second, if they aren't.

The two drafts will then be presented to Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, who is in charge of the national campaign against radicalism and terrorism, he said.


“The two drafts will be completed in April. We will present them to the vice president for finalization,” Mahfud told reporters at the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

“By May or June, the president will decide on one of the drafts. At the time being, no one is allowed to return,” he said.

Mahfud added that according to the government data, there are around 600 former IS fighters from Indonesia.

“They live in Syria, the Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the minister said he personally disagreed with any plan to repatriate the FTFs.

“If you asked me in person, my answer would have been different. I don't agree with their repatriation,” he said.

“When they return home, they must undergo the deradicalization program for a limited them. After that, when they blend in with societies, they might become radicalized persons again. Why? Because there's a risk that they will be isolated from the rest,” Mahfud said. 

Risky Move

Adies Kardi, deputy chairman of House of Representatives' Commission III that oversees legal affairs, shared Mahfud's view.

“It's them who abandoned the country. They want to replace the state ideology of Pancasila with the ISIS ideology,” the Golkar Party politician said, using a different acronym of the militant group.

Allowing people willing to kill others for ideological differences to return to Indonesia was a very risky move, he said.

On Wednesday, the president said he would not allow former IS fighters who had burned their Indonesian passports to return home, but the decision should wait a cabinet meeting.

“If you ask me that question, my answer is no,” Jokowi said, responding to a journalist who asked if militants who deliberately burned their passports would be allowed to return.

Intelligence analysts Suhendra Hadikuntono said Indonesians who have left the country to join terror network should get their citizenship stripped off.

“When an Indonesian citizen voluntarily gives up his citizenship to become a foreign combatant, or to commit a crime of humanity such as terrorism, he is no longer an Indonesian citizen according to the law,” Suhendra said.

“There is no human rights violation if the president denies their return to Indonesia, because by doing so, he protects the rights of the Indonesian people to live in peace and safety,” he said.

Debate on FTFs was fueled by remarks from Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razie, who said early this month that the government considered repatriating around 600 former IS members for humanitarian reasons.

Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) deputy chairman Fadli Zon supported the repatriation, saying the FTFs should be given a second chance.

People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Bambang Soesatyo also welcomed the plan and said that there was nothing to worry about the returnees.

However, deputy religious affairs minister Zainut Tauhid denied on Thursday that his office supported the repatriation.

"The minister of religious affairs himself has clarified in a press conference that the news reports are not accurate," Zainut said in a statement. 

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