How Kosovo rehabilitates repatriated Islamic State fighters

Bringing Foreign Fighters Home

April 2021, Number 11.02

“Since its declaration of independence on February 17, 2008, Kosovo has made great strides in grounding its liberal-democratic framework, with vital support from the United States and the European Union. Although a young European democracy, Kosovo has developed a pluralistic political scene and a strong civil society. However, it has also faced significant challenges, including violent extremism. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Islamic State (IS), the government of Kosovo expressed willingness to repatriate its citizens being held in Kurdish-run camps for IS members in Syria. Kosovo’s readiness to pursue a policy of repatriation in addressing the foreign fighter threat stands in stark contrast with other European countries that are hesitant or directly oppose the idea.

Questions about Kosovo’s ability to effectively prosecute those suspected of crimes, navigate the logistical challenges associated with their return, and manage the security threat that returnees pose loom large in the minds of decision makers. Some EU countries, among others, fear that bringing back their IS-affiliated citizens will lead to a public backlash with considerable political ramifications and are instead opting for an approach that leaves these individuals — mostly women and children — in a state of limbo…”

Ramadan “Dani” Ilazi is a senior researcher with the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies. He holds a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and is a Ph.D. candidate in politics and international relations at the Dublin City University in Ireland. He previously served as a deputy minister for European integration in the Kosovo government from 2015 to 2016.

Teuta Avdimeta is a researcher with the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies. She holds a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University, majoring in international security with research focused on substate violence and terrorism. She has served as a policy advisor to the president of Kosovo and as an external advisor in the Ministry for European Integration.

Skënder Perteshi heads the program on countering and preventing violent extremism with the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies. He has a degree in international relations and diplomacy from Universum College in Pristina, Kosovo. He has co-authored a number of security-related reports in Kosovo, including “Integrity in the Kosovo Security Sector.” He has been an advisor to international organizations such as the Royal United Services Institute, the International Organization for Migration and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Excerpt from Ramadan “Dani” Ilazi, Teuta Avdimetaj and Skënder Perteshi, “Bringing Foreign Fighters Home,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues  11, No. 2, 2021: 58-61.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.