After the collapse of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in 2017 in Iraq and last year in Syria, the return of ISIS fighters’ families to their homes has been discussed almost exclusively in the context of Western countries. Most of these nations have been reluctant to allow these families to return to their home countries, mainly for security and political reasons and because of the difficulty of prosecuting anyone involved with ISIS in Syria.
But the issue is just as (if not more) complex in places like Iraq and Syria, where many people still reject the return of those they labelled as “ISIS families” – families or clans with members (now active, imprisoned, or deceased) who joined the organization after 2014. Throughout much of Iraq, residents and authorities consider these families potential enablers of renewed ISIS activities. Despite local officials’ and entities’ intensive efforts to reintegrate these families with their communities, security concerns, tribal and sectarian issues, and other formidable obstacles remain.