Europe’s Foreign Fighters: Controversy Over ISIS Returnees in Bosnia & Germany

Written by | Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron made yet another statement that caused outrage in the Balkans when he said in an interview with The Economist: “If you’re concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it’s Bosnia-Herzegovina. The time-bomb that’s ticking right next to Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists, is Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Portrayals of Bosnia as a source of ‘Islamic threat’ echo anti-Muslim narratives that led to the genocide of the 1990s. Thus, it hardly comes as a surprise that many Bosnian politicians, local and foreign analysts and experts on the region condemned Macron’s statement not only for being wildly incorrect and unfair, but also politically irresponsible and dangerous.
Considering Bosnia’s serious efforts in dealing with returning ISIS fighters, as well as its resilience and other challenges facing the country, Macron’s statement hardly reflects reality. He is not the first French leader to disparage Bosnia and its people. During the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, then-French President Francois Mitterrand allegedly told his US counterpart Bill Clinton that, despite having sent humanitarian aid to Bosnia, “he was more sympathetic to the Serbs than I was, and less willing to see a Muslim-led unified Bosnia”. Therefore, to some, Macron’s comments may feel more like a reflection of Islamophobia France and its historic failure to integrate and resolve problems with its own Muslim community.
Meanwhile, ‘Islamic State’ returnees’ arrival in Germany have also raised eyebrows in the country as Berlin tries to reassure the public that suspected German Islamic State supporters being deported from Turkey do not pose a security threat. Critics say the government should have brought them back sooner. A family of seven German Islamists arrived in Berlin on Thursday (14 November) after the Turkey announced earlier this week that it would start deportations of captured “Islamic State” supporters. Armin Schuster, the interior policy spokesman for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), insisted that the German returnees were not “serious cases,” and warned against media-fueled hysteria.

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