Many of the local women and children who travelled to Syria to fight for the Islamic terror group Isis were forced to do so, according to local Imam Sheraz Ali.
It was for this reason, his group, Concern Muslims of T&T are lobbying government to assist in the return of at least 40 citizens who went to join the war in Syria.
Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew, Ali said that a visiting professor from the USA had claimed that there were 130 local Muslims who went across to Syria; 39 men, 39 women and 52 children.
While he said there may be a stigma attached, Imam Ali said there is no evidence that they even took part in the war.
“Has there been any report of any Trinidadian woman or children being involved in fighting for Isis? It has only been men. There are no reports of women or children. The women followed their husbands. Most of them did. I am not saying that there are not some of those who would have gone fully willingly, knowing what they were going to do, but it seems as though they were not even fighting. There are no reports of Trinidadian women fighting in the war in Syria and we know that many of them who have contacted people in Trinidad and Tobago are pleading to come back. Most of them, their husbands have died,” Ali said.
It is estimated that there are 73,000 family members of terrorist fighters living in a camp outside the city of al-Hol in northeast Syria after Isis was defeated by Syrian and US forces back in March.
The majority comprises of children and the wives of fighters, many of whom were killed or imprisoned.
Imam Ali described the situation with families trapped in Syria as a humanitarian crisis. He said that 90 per cent of those in the al-Hol were women and children.
He added that based on the information shared by humanitarian groups, they are living a life of squalor where there was not enough food. Ali claimed that some were victims of human trafficking.
T&T had been identified as a recruitment hub for Islamic extremists in several international publications.
Ali said that not even the imams in the various masjids knew about this migration to fight in a war. He said many of the fighters left surreptitiously and found themselves in a regrettable situation.