Turkey is repatriating almost 200 children of suspected Islamic State militants jailed in Iraq following Tuesday’s meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih in Istanbul.
Why it matters: While the war against the Islamic State in Iraq is largely over, tens of thousands of militants are crowding Iraqi prisons, overwhelming authorities. The fate of their children is under particularly close scrutiny by the international community. The number of so-called “Islamic State children” held in Iraq is estimated to be 1,500, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.
The repatriation deal highlights deepening cooperation between Iraq and Turkey following two months of high-level visits between the two countries. Iraq handed over 188 Turkish children over to the Turkish authorities in Baghdad today. They are expected to arrive in Turkey soon, Reuters reports.
Laying the groundwork: Ahead of Salih’s visit to Istanbul on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi paid an official visit to Ankara on May 15. The month before, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Iraq. During these visits the two sides also agreed on several military and economic cooperation deals.
What’s next: It is unclear how the children will be taken care of or whether Turkish authorities will take them through some sort of rehabilitation program before handing them over to relatives or child protective services. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, was also involved in the process and its representatives were present at the handover in Baghdad along with Turkish and Iraqi officials.
Know more: Read Mustafa Saadoun's explanation of how the Iraqi authorities plan to deal with the jailed militants. For insight into recent high-level meetings between Turkey and Iraq, read Fehim Tastekin’s latest piece, and learn more about the children here.
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