Hanane, 23, repatriated seven years after leaving for Syria: “An emotional upheaval” for her family in Nîmes

The young Nîmoise, widow of a Frenchman killed in combat in Syria and now a mother of two children, is part of the third wave of French jihadists repatriated to France on Tuesday January 25, during the third similar operation organized since July 2022. For the lawyer for his family, it is “an emotional upheaval”.

She had left at the age of 16, in secret, the Valdegour district of Nîmes, on May 1, 2015, to join Raqqa, which was then the stronghold of Daesh in Syria. More than seven years later, Hanane, a 23-year-old Nîmoise and her two little girls aged three and six, is one of the 15 women and 32 children repatriated by France on Tuesday January 24, for the third time since July 2022.

Imprisoned in Fresnes for terrorism

“She was imprisoned in Fresnes prison because she was the subject of a search warrant issued after her departure for criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise” says Me Khadija Aoudia, lawyer for her family in Nîmes.

“She had been begging her parents for two years to do everything possible to get her repatriated. For them, the announcement of this return is an emotional upheaval. They have not seen her for seven years, she was teenager, she is now a young mother they are looking forward to meeting, just like her two children.

The two girls will be placed

The little girls were hospitalized for an assessment, and will then be entrusted to foster families, before ties with their maternal family can possibly be forged. Their father, a radicalized Frenchman from Ile-de-France, whom Hanane had met there, was killed in action.

Hanane’s journey is like that of many young people from Occitania, seduced by the propaganda of the Islamic State. His family, of Moroccan origin, was absolutely not radicalized. But at the age of 15, Hanane began to practice in secret very suddenly, before stealing her older sister’s passport and passing under her identity in Syria via Turkey. Like her, dozens of young Nîmes and Nîmes had benefited from a jihadist network then very active, in the Gard as in Lunel.

Kalashnikovs, milkshakes and Snickers

“Don’t believe what they say on TV, there is no war there” she told her sister by telephone, a few days after her arrival, explaining that she had been given “a Kalash’, milkshakes and Snickers”.

“Afterwards, reality catches up with them” says Me Aoudia. “These are conventional marriages, more or less forced, they are indoctrinated, with all the symptoms of influence, and without any hindsight. Added to this are the traumas of war, and physical violence, that of the husband or the leader in his absence when these teenage girls rebel.”

Awareness and Repentance

After the fall of the Islamic State and their capture by Kurdish forces, Hanane, like many other wives or widows of jihadists, lived with her children in the Roj camp. “Inhuman living conditions, but a word that was then freed, with a speech of repentance, an awareness of indoctrination, of the erroneous nature of her religious convictions, and the desire to find a life as a young girl normal, to go back to school.”

129 returnees already imprisoned in France

A return to normal life which can only be done after a phase of detention and an upcoming trial. Condemned last September by the European Court of Human Rights on these cases, France, which until now practiced on a case-by-case basis, has now changed its doctrine. Éric Dupond-Moretti, the Keeper of the Seals, advocates a position combining “humanity and great prudence”. According to the Ministry of Justice, 129 jihadists who returned from the Iraqi-Syrian zone, including 51 women, were incarcerated in French prisons at the end of September.

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