On 13 March, the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-terrorism Division chief, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, (above) told Al Jazeera that Malaysians who joined terror groups abroad and their families will be allowed to return.
The condition was that they had to agree to go through a one-month rehabilitation programme. He said that not everyone will be detained, but all returnees will be interrogated.
Ayob said, “We will conduct thorough checks and investigation on each returnee. We bring in clerics and psychologists to evaluate their ideology and psychological makeup.
“We will compare intelligence which we received from friendly foreign services. If there is evidence that a returnee was involved in Islamic State’s militant activities, he or she will be charged in court”.
Several countries, including Britain and the United States, are in the process of stripping or have already stripped the citizenships of former fighters and their families, in an effort to stop them from returning to their home countries.
Fierce fighting by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has meant that the IS faces imminent defeat in its former strongholds in Iraq and Syria. This has prompted its fighters and their families to flee and return home .
Malaysians joining IS
According to Al Jazeera, around 102 Malaysians left Malaysia to join IS. Forty were killed while fighting in Iraq and Syria and nine of these, were suicide bombers.
Ayob said that 11 Malaysians have since returned and eight have been charged in court. The remaining three comprise a woman and two children under five years old.
He added, “The woman underwent a rehabilitation programme and has now returned to her kampung. She continues to be monitored.” The police are monitoring Malaysians who are still willing to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria, despite its imminent collapse. Some are contemplating going to Mindanao in southern Philippines because the militants groups there have links with IS.
Ayob claimed that around 51 Malaysians are still in Syria, and 17 of them are children.
The report said that Al Jazeera contacted the father of a Malaysian woman, who has requested to return to Malaysia. She is still in Syria.
The 29-year-old woman, called Lidia, left Malaysia for Syria, in 2014 with her husband and baby.
Around two weeks ago, with IS facing defeat, Lidia sent a text message to her father in Johor seeking his help to facilitate her return.
Lidia is one of 13 Malaysians in Syria seeking to return home. Ayob said that bringing them home is “difficult” because of the need to involve many parties from different countries. She is in a Kurdish-controlled camp in Hasakah with her two sons aged two and four. Her reason for returning is because the camp is not “comfortable.”
The Johorean is a former medical lab technician who lost her first husband and remarried another, when he died. Her second husband was also killed.
Lidia’s father said that she has been languishing at the camp for almost a year, and hopes the experience will serve as a lesson to her.
Do you agree to her return? Anyone can say they will voluntarily be rehabilitated, but how successful is rehabilitation with past returnees? What are the experiences of other countries and their returnees?