Jakarta – Thousands of Islamic State sympathizers from Indonesia currently in Syria may wish they had the opportunity to vote for the right candidates in the April 17 election, as the decision whether to allow them to return now rests on a political compromise between parties in the House of Representatives.
"The decision is currently being discussed by the various factions in the legislature, because we know that this isn't only about repatriating someone with a different mindset," Commissioner General Suhardi Alius, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said on Monday, as quoted by Antara.
The government has grappled with the dilemma of repatriating supporters of the international terrorist group since its defeat earlier this year. Under Indonesian law, they remain citizens because they did not swear allegiance to any recognized state.
On the other hand, returnees from Syria could bring back extremist ideas, or worse, the skills and means to carry out terror attacks in the country. About a year ago, a family of six who spent time in Syria, attacked two churches in Surabaya, East Java.
On a practical level, Indonesian Islamic State sympathizers mostly do not have official identity documents as they burned whatever they had when joining the radical group, making it difficult for the government to confirm their identity.
According to reports, there are thousands of Indonesian citizens, mostly women and children, among the families of Islamic State fighters sheltering in Al Hol camp in eastern Syria. Many of them wish for the government to arrange their return.
That would not make their return less dangerous. Suhardi said in several cases, the Indonesian wives of Islamic State sympathizers are even more militant than their men when it comes to spreading radical teachings.