Lisa Smith’s repatriation: Deprivation of citizenship a mistake

Lisa Smith’s repatriation: Deprivation of citizenship a mistake
The Turkish Airlines plane carrying Lisa Smith lands at Dublin Airport and Lisa Smith leaves the aircraft with a pink blanket over her head.Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie.

It was right and proper that Lisa Smith and her daughter be brought back to Ireland as Irish citizens and treated in a humane manner. Depriving so-called Isis brides of citizenship — as the British and Dutch governments have done — renders them stateless and is pointless and self defeating.

It’s bad for security and undermines efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. Islamic State grew partly from the US policy of keeping large numbers of extremists in a detention camp in Iraq. This allowed many Islamic State leaders to meet and plan their murderous strategies.

It also helped them to radicalise tens of thousands and helped create, at its height, an army of more than 70,000 fighters.

It’s bad for international law. Seeking to deprive someone of citizenship simply because they are problematical risks violating international legal obligations. It also sparks of colonialism.

It’s bad for gender equality. Prosecuting male returnees while refusing even to repatriate female ones, effectively gives women far less chance of defending themselves in a court of law than their male counterparts.

It is bad for the rights of children. As has happened with British and Dutch women, making them stateless has also made their children stateless, resulting in them spending their formative years in detention camps in Syria and Turkey.

As for Ms Smith, it was right and proper that she be taken immediately into Garda custody for questioning over her conduct when she joined the caliphate in Syria.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, it will also be right that she be kept under close surveillance in Ireland in order to determine whether she poses any real threat to our security.

She has said repeatedly that she never fought with Isis yet it is established that she travelled to Syria during the Syrian civil war to join IS, reportedly marrying — and later divorcing — four Muslim men, among them IS fighter Sajid Aslam, who, she claims, is the father of her two-year-old daughter.

Neither has she at any stage made a strong, unequivocal condemnation of IS. In an interview last July with journalist Norma Costello for RTÉ, she spoke mainly of disappointment and anger.

“It wasn’t worth it. We failed,” she said.

“We actually thought it was going to be an Islamic State ... and we would all be joined as one and be very happy. It didn’t happen.”

In the interview held at a detention camp in Syria, she also denied training young girls in how to handle weapons, even though as a former Irish soldier, she was well experienced in weaponry.

She claims she never participated in fighting, but photos have emerged of her posing with weapons in Tunisia.

Most disturbing of all, though, is her refusal to accept that her decision to go to Syria was in any way the result of holding extreme or radical views.

“What is radical? I don’t understand clearly. In terms of being a Muslim and wanting to live in a Muslim state, I don’t understand how that is radical.”

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