Indonesia has decided not to repatriate some 660 former members of terrorist group ISIS following a national debate on the issue, with the government choosing to prioritize national security over humanitarian considerations of Indonesians who renounced their citizenships.
The government’s position on the matter was made clear by top security minister Mahfud MD yesterday, who said that the safety of 267 million Indonesians currently in the country comes first.
However, Mahfud said that the government is open to repatriating children under 10 years old who were forced to join the terrorist group in Syria by their parents.
“We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Though no official stance had been taken at the time, President Joko Widodo last week expressed his reluctance in repatriating the former ISIS members, winning praise from a majority of Indonesians.
The Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) was among those who called for the former ISIS members to be allowed back home on humanitarian grounds.
Indonesia passed a bill in 2018 to give authorities more power to take pre-emptive action against terror suspects following the deadly suicide bombings in East Java, which were claimed by ISIS. However, since then, Indonesia has been hit with several more ISIS-claimed terror attacks, including the failed assassination attempt on former top security minister Wiranto in October 2019.
The BBC recently published a video report on an Indonesian family stranded in Syria, highlighting that not all who left everything behind to join ISIS did so willingly.