Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Trinidad boys abducted by ISIS father leave Syria with Pink Floyd's help

More than 1,000 children in custody of Syrian Kurdish forces because relatives joined ISIS

A member of an NGO accompanies two Caribbean children and their mother (R) as they prepare to leave the northeastern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on January 21, 2018. AFP
A member of an NGO accompanies two Caribbean children and their mother (R) as they prepare to leave the northeastern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on January 21, 2018. AFP

Two children from Trinidad have been reunited with their mother in northern Syria, four years after their militant father brought them along when he joined ISIS.

The Kurdish administration of northern Syria released Ayyub Ferreira, seven, and his brother Mahmud, 11, into the care of their mother on Monday.

Their release came after Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters became interested in their plight, lawyer and rights activist Clive Stafford-Smith told AFP.

"The two children were kidnapped by their father from Trinidad and brought 4,000 miles [6,000 kilometres] over here" in June 2014, Mr Stafford-Smith said.

That year ISIS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" that attracted thousands of foreign Islamists and their families.

It has since lost most of that territory to various offensives, including to one led by Kurdish fighters and backed by the US-led coalition.

"The two children were freed from the Raqa area several months ago," said Fener al-Qait, a foreign affairs official with Syria's semi-autonomous Kurdish authorities.

An ISIS fighter, "the father was married to another woman. He was killed and his wife fled," he added.

Mr Stafford-Smith said he tracked down the children's mother and then contacted Mr Waters.

"I was talking to Roger Waters, the founder of Pink Floyd, the famous rock and roll band... He agreed to pay for it all and flew the mother over from Trinidad," the US-British lawyer said.

Once the boys are out of Syria, "we're going to make sure that they get on with a really productive, decent life," he said.

"One of them said he wanted to be a professional cricketer, and the other one said he wanted to be a professional footballer."

Kurdish-led forces have rounded up hundreds of foreigners who allegedly fought for ISIS, but they also hold more than 1,200 children and 500 women related to them.

The Kurds have repeatedly called on their home countries to take them back.

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But Western governments have largely been reluctant, with public opinion against it after a series of ISIS-claimed attacks in Europe.

Mr Stafford-Smith advocated for bringing other children home.

"When you look at the 1,248 children that are currently in custody here, obviously we've got to do the same for them," he said.

And, he said, "we cannot just take children back without taking their parents".

Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, before evolving into a complex conflict including foreign powers and militants.

Updated: January 22, 2019 03:06 PM

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