“Our concern is that these children of jihadists will become time bombs,” warn two journalists

Major journalists, specialists in the Middle East, Édith Bouvier and Céline Martelet work together on the problem of the French who traveled to fight in the ranks of Islamic State. Following A Perfume of Jihad in 2018, the two journalists co-authored The Circle of Terror, still in Plon, shedding light on France’s abandonment of hundreds of its citizens with a central question: “Are we creating the terrorists tomorrow? Edith Bouvier urges to a change of policy at the highest level in the state to prevent this dizzying prospect from becoming a reality.
How did you come to be interested in this question about the French who traveled to join the ranks of Islamic State?

In 2015, I met in a mosque in Strasbourg, where I came to talk about journalism, two young girls of thirteen, who told me that their dream was to go to Syria to find love. It bothered me and I was trying to understand why one could wish for it at that age. How did they get there, and were there many of them? I came to this topic this way, and then I met Céline, who has been working on it a lot since 2013. We have gathered our network and our knowledge since 2016.

Why write a new book after “Un parfum de jihad”?

A scent of jihad was married to the wives of jihadists. The terrorist circle is the logical consequence, because with these women and children kept in camps in Syria, we have a real social problem. We tried to understand how they see us and how we see them. And our inability to speak the same language.
One of the strongest parts of your book concerns the abandonment of the 250 to 300 children of French nationality in camps in northern Syria …

Our concern is that these children will become time bombs, which certainly does not mean that they are today. The terrible thing is that we criticize Islamic State for its lack of respect for our rule of law, but we ourselves no longer respect it. We mock it in the hope of fighting the jihadists, and the opposite is happening. And by doing so, we are taking the risk of boosting these children’s hatred towards their own country.

What did you want to contribute by giving a voice to these female prisoners in the camps?

We do not deny the crimes committed. Joining a terrorist organization is a crime and should be recognized as such. On the other hand, their children are not responsible. We cite the example of a young woman who celebrated her 18th birthday in a camp last August and who was taken by force by her parents at the age of 12. She is now an orphan. And as her lawyer struggles to get her victim status recognized, she hits a wall. Although it is one who has nothing left, his family in France is fighting to get it back. How can you tear life like this? And when the French state asks mothers to give up their children so that they can be repatriated to France, it is a complete violation of the rights of the child.

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Is France the only country that does not repatriate women and children?

Most countries have repatriated them. The file in France is managed directly on the Élysée. It lacks the political courage to take the plunge. We have all the arsenal to support these people. It is better for some to be imprisoned here than for them to fend for themselves in Syria, where the Kurds do not have the means to take care of them.

Interview by Dominique Diogon

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