TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - More than ten Indonesian nationals at the Al-Hawl refugee camp expressed elation once Tempo journalist Hussein Abri introduced himself on Thursday, May 23. The women and children in tent number 39378 are family members from those who joined the defunct international terrorist group ISIS.
The husbands of the women and children there were combatants of the terrorist group who are currently spending time behind bars.
“My father was taken to prison by soldiers,” said Windy Aulia Alwi (17) who refers to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is the Syrian Kurdish authorities’ military.
Windy further recalled that she and her mother Rahmawati were taken by SDF soldiers from Baghouz Al-Fawqani village in Dayr Az-Zawr to the refugee camp around early March. Baghouz was seen as ISIS’ last fortress before they were defeated by a joint military effort from the SDF and Kurdish and Arab Syrian army.
During this takedown, thousands of male ISIS combatants were imprisoned while the women and children were taken to refugee camps. Windy’s father was Muhamad Ali (45).
Windy and her family managed to enter Syria in 2016 at a time she was just aged 13. “My father talked about an Islamic state, which I thought was casual travel and happy journey,” said Windy. Her entire family then traveled from Jakarta to Turkey and continued their journey via land transport to the Syrian border.
What Windy faced next beyond this border was very different from what she had ever imagined.
At the time of the interview with Tempo, Windy yearned to return home to Indonesia and gather again with her relatives in Kramat 4, Central Jakarta, especially after being separated with her father.
“I want to gather [with my family again]. It’s horrible living here,” said Windy.
Another Indonesian woman that supported ISIS in Syria was Halimatun Sadiyah who comes from South Tangerang. She explained that the Al-Hawl refugee camp is currently home to 73 thousand refugees.
Halimatun said there are at least 200 Indonesians in this camp, which all of them also wish to return to Indonesia, especially after information spread about 30 Indonesians who were sent back home to Indonesia.
Back in Jakarta, Tempo met with Windy’s grandmother and aunt, Acih and Vivi Fatimah in Kramat 4, Central Jakarta, who immediately cried after we informed about her niece’s whereabouts.
According to Vivi, Windy and her family’s disappearance was shocking when they first embarked to Syria. “Ali called us when they already arrived in Syria,” said Vivi. Family members were puzzled by their departure since Ali’s family was considered financially established where he had a respectable job as a human resources manager in an automotive showroom in Central Jakarta.
Acih and Vivi now feel powerless as they yearn for their niece to be able to come back home. “We want them back home, but we do not know how,” said Acih.
More about this story can be read in the upcoming 44th edition of Tempo English Magazine published on Tuesday, June 18.