PETALING JAYA: Authorities are investigating a report that 16 women, some with children, said to be from Malaysia and Indonesia, were captured by Kurdish rebels in Syria on suspicion of having links with the Islamic State (IS).
Malaysian authorities are verifying with Interpol the report, first published by FMT.
The report had quoted a Human Rights Watch (HRW) official as saying a Malaysian woman and her family were believed to be in Kurdish custody.
“I know there are Indonesians, at least 15,” Nadim Houry, the terrorism and counter-terrorism programme director of the US-based human rights advocacy group, told FMT.
“I did not see the Malaysians, but I am told there is one family.
“Most families have kids, so while I have no specifics about these families, my suspicion would be yes, they have kids.”
FMT has contacted the police for confirmation and is awaiting a reply.
Houry had further said Indonesia was one of the few countries that took some families back in 2017.
“The other country that took back some of its nationals was Russia. But there are still some remaining.
“I met some Indonesian families on a previous trip in July 2017, though I am told that Indonesia took that group of women back.”
Houry did not say if there were women from other Southeast Asian countries in the camps, or what had happened to the Malaysian family.
Following the publication of the report, FMT again contacted Houry for more details on the Malaysian woman and is awaiting his response.
Yesterday, Indonesian Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said the authorities had taken immediate action on the report by FMT.
Wiranto said the foreign ministry and the National Counter-Terrorism Agency would cooperate with the police to look into the detention of the 15 Indonesian women, Indonesian news site Tempo.co reported.
German newspaper Die Welt reported last month that some 800 foreign women who joined the IS militant group with their children had been detained by US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
The German daily had interviewed Houry, who spoke to many of the women during visits to several detention camps in Kurdish-held areas in January.
The German paper quoted him as saying that the 800 women and their children were in four camps.
“They come from around 40 countries. There are women from Canada, France, Britain, Tunisia, Yemen, Turkey and Australia,” he said, adding that there were also 15 from Germany.
Houry had said the women were given a certain amount of freedom but were not allowed to leave the camps.
They were also being held separately from the captured IS fighters, he said.
Some women he interviewed said they had been “beaten and humiliated” during interrogations and forced to live in unhygienic conditions with their babies.
“These women are in a very difficult situation. For the little kids, especially, the circumstances are by no means good,” Houry was quoted as saying.
The terrorism expert said the women wanted to return home and were willing to face criminal charges in their home countries.
“Some women want to at least send their children home. The children have not committed any crime.
“They are victims of the war and their radicalised parents,” he said.