On Wednesday 17 July Dutch authorities arrested a young Muslim woman, Oum Usama, a Dutch National of Somali origins in the small city of Zoetermeer, just sixteen kilometers east of Hague. Following two days of detention and interrogation, Oum Usama was arraigned at court on Friday 19 July where the presiding judge extended her detention for an additional two weeks, during which the state must decide how to precede.
According to a statement by Nicolette Stoel speaking on behalf of the Public Prosecutor’s office in The Hague, Oum Usama has since been transferred to an unknown location where she is being held incommunicado.
“The woman [Oum Usama] was arrested and has been remanded for two weeks while an investigation is underway… At this stage she is only allowed contact with her lawyer.”
The reason for her arrest and subsequent detainment stems from allegations that she “recruited” other Dutch nationals to travel abroad to take part in the conflict which has been raging in Syria for the past three years.
As it is not, as of yet, illegal for Dutch citizens to travel to Syria, the government is largely ineffectual at prohibiting travel to that country by any legal apparatus currently at the judicial system’s disposal. The inability to inhibit movement of Dutch Muslims and the resulting impotence has caused the State to instead focus on those who they can prosecute: the “recruiters”.
Under Dutch law soliciting individuals to travel abroad or take part in armed resistance is illegal and carries a sentence of up to four years in jail or a fine of €78,000 euros ($102,000). The Prosecutor’s office has expressed that while they cannot stop Muslims from going to Syria, they can stop those they deem as “recruiting” fighters.
Oum Usama’s arrest was in part precipitated, according to statements made my the prosecutions office, due to the complaints of several parents of Dutch Muslims who have left to defend the people of Syria. The complaints allege that several individuals, all of whom have been arrested, acting to encourage, entice or otherwise enable or enlist their children into traveling to Syria, are responsible for the departure of the Dutch form Holland to Syria.
According to Stoel:
“In some of the complaints people, who are allegedly enlisting fighters are named… in the meantime, a broader investigation into the recruitment by radical Muslims of young people to fight in Syria is underway.”
However, despite the allegations from family members, Amsterdam-based lawyer Bart Nooitgedagt, who represents other Dutch citizens accused of “recruiting” Muslims to fight in Syria, said such cases are difficult to prove, and there have been no successful prosecutions of Muslims on “recruitment” charges to date.
“Relatives simply filing complaints is not enough, you have to have somebody who has returned from Syria saying: ‘I have been recruited.’ There must be objective evidence to support such a claim, like tapped telephone conversations or emails to prove that the person was recruited.”
There seems to be a growing concern in the Netherlands about young Dutch Muslims enlisting to fight in Syria. A study conducted by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at King’s College London, and published in April, stated that at least 107 Dutch nationals were defending Syrians against the brutal Bashar regime.
Currently it is unclear exactly how many Muslims from the Netherlands are fighting in Syria, however, it is clear to many that the vast majority are neither terrorists, a danger to their country of citizenship or the west, or that they were subjected to any “recruitment”.
Despite the reality, many – the Dutch government among them – labour under the false impression that those who have gone to defend: life, property, and rule of law are “terrorists” or “extremists” based solely upon their religion, and secondly, that those who have left have been “recruited” by “nefarious groups” and are being groomed abroad for attacks in the heart of the west.
ICSR King’s College researcher and counter terrorism consultant Aaron Y. Zelin, stressed that not all foreigners fighting in Syria are Muslim extremists, nor do the majority of them pose any threat to Europe or their countries of origin:
“Not everyone who has joined the Syrian rebels is Al-Qaeda, and only a small number may ever become involved in terrorism after returning to Europe.”
Researcher and counter terrorism commentator Zeilin is not alone in his assessment of the Muslims who are leaving the west in order to help protect and defend the people of Syria from a brutal and inhuman regime. Even French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, often labeled as being “right wing” has said regarding those who have traveled to Syria:
“They’re not all jihadists or terrorists.”
In addition to various experts in Europe, those very Dutch citizens who left, some of whose families may think they were recruited, have said similarly, in a recent interview with a Dutch journalist:
“[W]e respect the opinion of anyone who claims that the Muslims should not leave to travel to Syria, under one condition, that this be his own independent opinion and that he relies on a fair, just and balanced look at things. …And it is important that the person who speaks knows about the reality here in Syria. If someone wants to stay informed on the situation in Syria than it should be from the people on the ground that they get their information.”
… The issue now [of Dutch leaving the Netherlands to fight in Syria] has a lot of media attention, grant foundations, MPs and the media [all] abuse the emotions of anxious mothers. …every mother wants the warm bed and safe home for her children opposed to the war, blood and violence. But what of the Syrian mothers also, it can not be that the tears of some mothers in Netherlands outweigh the tears of thousands of mothers in Syria.”
“…Many of the mothers in the Netherlands understand the situation, how proud they are of their children. …To quote, one of our mothers said: ‘On two occasions in my life I have been very happy, when my son had his beard and then I heard he was in Syria.’ Why do we not hear these sounds in the media, why do we only hear the sorrow of mothers? Where is the pride that most mothers feel too?
“It is not true that young people are recruited in the Netherlands. This is just another fairy tale. How can you be ensnared by recruiters? What does that look like? What need do fighters have for young men who do not really want to fight? If there is someone who has recruited these guys then it is the west with its barbaric wars in Muslim countries. The images that we have seen for years; from Iraq and Afghanistan is what has planted the desire for Jihad in our hearts. And many Muslims in the west and here [in Syria] think the same way. …[E]ven the AIVD [Dutch Intelligence] denies that there have been people recruited directly.”
“… It is because of the unrest in our hearts that we have come here, to protect the people against these murderous soldiers and to avenge the innocent victims, to avenge and protect them gives great satisfaction. You’re not just helplessly watching [from abroad], you can finally do something about it.”
We’ve all left for a reason, and not because some shady figure has recruited us. This is a great insult, we are wise and intelligent enough to make our own decisions. And it certainly was not an easy decision.”
Regardless of the actual facts, and the observations of counter terrorism and research specialists, informed politicians, and the very Dutch Muslims themselves, who have traveled to Syria to defend the people; the government of Netherlands seems intent upon the harassment and incarceration of the remaining, and sympathetic Muslim community, whose only apparent crime is a concern for the suffering and safety of the people of Syria.
What is apparent is that there have been no previous convictions or proven cases of any recruitment of Dutch nationals to travel to Syria, let alone fight. According to counter terrorism consultants and researchers, as well as members of EU governments, the vast majority of those journeying to and participating in events in Syria are not terrorists, nor were they “recruited”, and this is confirmed by those very same nationals who are currently in Syria, having traveled their of their own impetus from the Netherlands.
It appears that Sister Oum Usama is just the latest victim to suffer under the current Islamophobic climate and fear-mongering by uninformed or politically motivated media and government outlets.
Please voice your concern at the arrest and incarceration of many innocent Dutch nationals, and Oum Usama, a young woman, whose only apparent crime is that they care about the suffering and murder of thousands in war-torn Syria.
You can stay informed regarding Oum Usama, her situation, the status of her case, and any events or initiatives scheduled to ease her duress and secure her freedom by following her campaign’s Twitter account @FreeOumUsama and/or liking their Facebook page: Vrijheid voor Oum Usama. Our sister is next scheduled to appear in court before the magistrate on Friday 2 August, please remember her and her family in your du’a.