Sweden will be initiating a program aimed at rehabilitating former ISIS fighters. These ex-jihadists will receive housing, employment, education and other financial benefits.
Anna Sjostrand, Sweden's municipal coordinator against violent extremism, hopes that these new policies will reintegrate these fighters back into society and prevent them from returning to their extremist ways.
“There may be criticism, but [I think] that you should get the same help as others who seek help from us. We can’t say that because you made a wrong choice, you have no rights to come back and live in our society,” she said, according to the AhlulBayt News Agency.
Her plan came from research published by criminologist Christoffer Carlsson, who writes that it is difficult to abandon extremism without structural and governmental support. Most European ISIS fighters have a criminal record, according to The Independent, and the extremist group uses that fact as a point of propaganda, saying that it will provide these criminals the support that their country cannot.
"The risk is great that [extremists] are unable to leave the extremist environment [without support]," Carlsson writes, according to AhlulBayt. "They might make an attempt and fail because they have nothing to keep them out, and there is always something to return to, namely the organization they left."
As of now, the new program will only be in effect in the city of Lund, and will act as a trial case for the rest of the country. The proposal is not without backlash, according to AhlulBayt, and many are calling the program offensive and calling for Sjostrand to step down from her position.
"Lund wants to help terrorists with housing, driver’s license and job, but forgets the victims,” writes one person on Twitter.
Another adds that extremists, like other criminals, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “Rapists, child murderers, terrorists. Everyone should be treated equally.”
Sweden has the highest number of ISIS fighters per capita in Europe, according to The Independent, and finding a solution to keep these jihadists from their former ways has been a contested debate in the country. Around 300 people have left the country to fight for ISIS and 140 have returned, looking to reintegrate themselves back into society.