Two Austrian girls who fled their homes in April to join Islamic State fighters in Syria have had a change of heart and want to come home, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday. But Austrian law could prevent them from doing so.
The two, 17-year-old Samra Kesinovic and 15-year-old Sabina Selimovic, left their homes in secret earlier this year, stating in a note to their parents: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah and we will die for him.”
According to the report, the two were likely pregnant after being married off to fighters from the group. After months in Syria, however, the girls contacted their families and expressed their wish to return to Vienna, Austrian officials said.
But the girls reportedly acknowledged that their newfound global infamy would make it difficult for them to return to their former lives. Moreover, Austrian officials said laws put in place to protect the country from returning radicalized citizens raised difficulties.
“The main problem is about people coming back to Austria,” said a spokesman for Austria’s interior ministry. “Once they leave, it is almost impossible.”
Women living in areas under Islamic State control must follow strict Islamic laws and have very few rights, with numerous reports of females being sexually and physically abused by the group’s members.
Europe has scrambled to deal with the threat of hundreds and possibly thousands of Islamist fighters returning to the European Union from combat in Iraq and Syria, fearing they plan to carry out large-scale attacks in the union.
The EU’s anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove told the BBC in September that over 3,000 European citizens have joined the ranks of IS. The number, he said, included those who had gone to the region and returned, as well as those who had been killed in fighting.