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The Return: Life After ISIS – Hot Docs 2021

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Thousands of women who left their countries to join ISIS find themselves in limbo at a Syrian detention camp in . Spurred on by propaganda videos promising a utopia for Muslims, thousands of radicalized teenage women left their Western countries and travelled to Syria as ISIS recruits. However, after arriving in the country, these women including UK-born Shamima Begum and American Hoda Muthana, quickly discovered that the role of women in the Islamic State amounted to little more than either sex enslavement or servitude towards their husbands. Now, these women find themselves stuck in Kurdish-controlled detention camps, with their home countries wanting nothing to do with them.

The Return: Life After ISIS sees directing Alba Sotorra Clua following a group of women at the ROJ Detention Camp in Northeastern Syria, where 1500 women and children from 56 nations were placed after ISIS was militarily defeated by the US-led coalition and Kurdish forces in March 2019. The primary subjects of Shamima Begum and Hoda Muthana found that they have had their citizenship revoked from the UK and the US respectively and they now find themselves in limbo, with nobody wanting to take responsibility for them.

The Return: Life After ISIS is a very heartbreaking story of young women, who are being shunned by their home countries for their naive decision to join ISIS at a very young age. It is obvious that Alba Sotorra Clua's goal with this film is for viewers to feel empathy for these young women, who have been labelled terrorists by their governments and the media. If anything, The Return: Life After ISIS shows that perhaps it's not the best decision to judge these women for stupid decisions they made as impressionable teenagers.

The Return: Life After ISIS is streaming as part of the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival


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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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