Turkey has deported 149 Indonesians since the start of the year on suspicion of trying to cross into Syria to join Islamic State, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The figure includes 12 citizens who were sent home by Turkish authorities last week. As many as 221 Indonesians were expelled from Turkey over similar allegations during 2015 and 2016.
This year’s expulsions have taken place as IS strongholds in Syria and Iraq have come under siege by military offensives mounted by the local governments and anti-IS coalition forces.
“The total number of Indonesian citizens deported since 2015 until March 26, 2017 was 370 people, including 149 citizens who were deported since Jan. 1,” Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, who directs the ministry’s Department for the Protection of Citizens and Legal Entities, told BenarNews.
‘Children still need their mothers’
Last week, Indonesian police released 12 newly arrived deportees – four women and eight children aged between 2 and 6 years old – and handed them over to a shelter in East Jakarta run by the Social Ministry.
“It is still under police investigation regarding their motives and the illegal route they tried to take to Syria. This case is handled by BNPT,” Directorate General of Immigration spokesman Agung Sampurno told BenarNews on Friday, referring to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency.
“Because BNPT does not have a facility for children, they were sent to the Social Ministry while the investigation is under way. The children still need their mothers and they cannot be separated,” he said.
The women are to receive guidance on the country’s ideology of Pancasila, Indonesia’s state philosophy emphasizing national unity and pluralism, and how to integrate themselves back into their communities.
“The social ministry will conduct a trauma healing and trauma counseling process, especially for the children, before they go back to their respective regions,” Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said in a statement issued Friday. The rehabilitation process is scheduled to last a month.
According to records from the social ministry, the shelter received 75 deportees from Turkey in February, including one identified as the wife of Bahrumsyah (alias Bachrumsyah Mennor Usman) an Indonesian citizen believed to be a founder of an IS combat unit made up exclusively of fighters from Southeast Asia. On March 13, Amaq, the IS-affiliated news agency, reported that Bahrumsyah died in a suicide bombing in Syria, but the Indonesian government has not confirmed his death.
Some well-educated Indonesians are among those who have been deported from Turkey this year. Among those expelled in mid-January was a former economist from the Ministry of Finance, who received his college education in Australia and left for the Middle East with his wife and three children.
The ex-economist and Bahrumsyah’s wife were also sent to the Social Ministry’s Bambu Apus facility in East Jakarta to receive guidance and training on Pancasila, after they were released over a lack of evidence needed to press terror-related charges against them, officials said.
Under Indonesian current anti-terror laws, it is not a crime for citizens to travel abroad to join extremist groups such as IS.
Reasons for going
Several things inspire people to abandon their lives in Indonesia in their quest to travel to and build new lives in IS-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq, according to Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert at Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh.
They are inspired by theology as well as political, economic and social reasons, even though IS appears to be cornered in the two neighbouring Middle Eastern countries, he said.
“Many of them are jobless in Indonesia. They want to try their luck by doing business while living under Islamic law. Don’t be surprised, products of Indonesia are very salable there,” Chaider told BenarNews.
[This article is authored by Tia Asmara and originally published by Benar News.]