The Return: Life After ISIS (2021)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 30m

English subtitles available. Please click the ‘CC’ button on the bottom right of the player to activate

“When you are brainwashed, you don’t realize it until you snap out of it. I took everything too fast, and too deep.” - Hoda Muthana, film participant, The Return: Life After ISIS

Hoda Muthana and Shamima Begum made world headlines after leaving their homes in the US and UK as teenagers to join the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The Return: Life After ISIS is a unique portrait of a group of Western women who pledged their lives to ISIS, but now want to return home to restart their lives. While facing hostile journalists and governments who have left them de-facto stateless, the women confront their truths and try to heal from their trauma in a locked camp in northeast Syria, with the help of Kurdish women’s rights activists. With its rare access to Roj camp, this film is a sensitive portrayal of just a few of the 63,000 women and children held, in dire conditions with no due process, as ISIS suspects and family members in northeast Syria by a Kurdish-led armed group.

“This film cuts through the stereotypes about Western women who joined ISIS and makes a compelling case for bringing them home. In the process, it reveals an unusual sisterhood between these women and a Kurdish social worker who helps them even though ISIS sought to destroy her community.” – Letta Tayler, associate director, Crisis and Conflict Division, Human Rights Watch

  • Nominee, Grand Jury Award, SXSW 2021

Watch at your own pace anytime between May 19 - 27, or join us and watch-along before the live Q&A

Thursday, May 20
3:30 PM EDT / 12:30 PM PDT – Start film
5:00 PM EDT / 2:00 PM PDT – Join us for a live Q&A with filmmaker Alba Sotorra Clua, Kurdish Feminist Activist Sevinaz Evdike and Letta Tayler, Associate Director, Crisis and Conflict, HRW and Maya Foa, Joint Executive Director, Reprieve, moderated by Azadeh Moaveni, Author of Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS, and Director of the Gender and Conflict Project, International Crisis Group. Register here

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Bonus Content

'The Return: Life After ISIS' Filmmaker Introduction

An introductory video from ‘The Return: Life After ISIS’ filmmaker Alba Sotorra Clua

Canada: Bring Home ISIS Suspects and Relatives from Syria

Inadequate Steps to Assist 47 Canadians in Dire Conditions

Canada is failing to take adequate steps to assist and repatriate dozens of Canadians unlawfully detained in dire conditions for alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) links in northeast Syria, Human Rights Watch said in a report released June 29, 2020. The government should promptly repatriate all its detained citizens for rehabilitation, reintegration, and, as appropriate, prosecution. The report, “‘Bring Me Back To Canada’: Plight of Canadians Held in Northeast Syria for Alleged ISIS Links,” says that Canada has not brought home any of the estimated 47 Canadians – 8 men, 13 women, and 26 children – detained for more than a year in overcrowded, filthy, and life-threatening conditions. Most of the children are under age 6, including a 5-year-old orphan. Since March 2020, Canada has repatriated 40,000 other citizens from 100 countries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including 29 from Syria.

Read more here.

Syria: Address Fate of Missing Victims of ISIS

The authorities in Syria should address as a priority what happened to people who disappeared in the custody of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) while the group controlled parts of Syria, Human Rights Watch said in a report released February 11, 2020. Authorities in de facto control of areas formerly under ISIS control should make information-sharing with families a priority and help create a formal system to address the issue of the missing and allow families to register their cases.

The report, “‘Kidnapped by ISIS’: Failure to Uncover the Fate of Syria’s Missing,” highlights 27 cases of individuals or groups apprehended by ISIS and last heard of in its custody before the group’s military defeat. They include activists, aid workers, journalists, and anti-ISIS fighters from a range of groups, government and anti-government, as well as residents living under ISIS control. While the number of missing is uncertain, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented 8,143 cases of people detained by ISIS whose fate remains unknown.

Read more here.

Iraq: ISIS Child Suspects Arbitrarily Arrested, Tortured

Children Should Be Rehabilitated, Reintegrated

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released March 2019. The prosecutions are often based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture.

Read the report “Everyone Must Confess” Abuses against Children Suspected of ISIS Affiliation in Iraq here

Tunisia: Scant Help to Bring Home ISIS Members’ Children

Tunisian officials have been dragging their feet on helping bring home Tunisian children held without charge in foreign camps and prisons for families of Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members, Human Rights Watch said February 12, 2019. Most of the children are held with their mothers, but at least six are orphans. In rare calls and letters to family members, mothers of the children described living in overcrowded prison cells in Libya or tent camps in northeast Syria with acute shortages of food, clothing, and medicine. Two Tunisia-based family members said the mothers told them that some women and children – they did not say how many – had been beaten by interrogators, sometimes repeatedly, in al-Jawiyyah, a prison in Misrata, Libya, and that some detainees, including children, were severely withdrawn and spoke of wanting to kill themselves.

Read more here%20%E2%80%93%20Tunisian%20officials%20have,Human%20Rights%20Watch%20said%20today.).

Syria: Mass Graves in Former ISIS Areas

Local Group Struggling to Recover Bodies, Preserve Evidence (July 2018) A local group working to uncover mass graves in the area of northeastern Syria once controlled by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) needs international support and technical assistance to preserve evidence of possible crimes and identify the remains.

Read more here.