“Kylian, 13 years old: life after Daesh”, on BFM-TV: the challenge of reintegrating a child repatriated from Syria

Kylian had just turned 6 when his father, Omar, took him to Syria in July 2015

“Kylian, 13 years old: life after Daesh”, on BFM-TV: the challenge of reintegrating a child repatriated from Syria

Kylian had just turned 6 when his father, Omar, took him to Syria in July 2015. A fight then began for his mother, Nelly, who was left alone. The young woman has “only one thing in mind: getting [her] child back,” she says in the documentary that BFM-TV is devoting to her story.

A story about which we will know everything… and nothing. For security reasons, Kylian and Nelly (played by an actress) are portrayed under pseudonyms and without any indication of where they live. Or rather where they live again, after being separated for so long. It's quite different in Belgium, where director Fanny Morel went to see how Samira tries to raise her grandchildren born in Syria, to a jihadist mother incarcerated after her return – whom her children come to see in the visiting room, accompanied by their grandmother.

In France, the reintegration of Kylian, who returned in 2023, is not a given. Her mother is faced with the complexity of the procedures, the suspicion, the intransigence of the French authorities to repatriate minors on a case-by-case basis – 324 have been since 2019.

At first, Nelly will have to fend for herself. The father having been killed in a bombing in 2016, the kid was taken care of by his partner, “very radicalized and who did not intend to let him return to France”, says Noé Pignède, the journalist who will help the mother find the exit door for his son from the Al-Hol camp, in Syria, where a number of French nationals were grouped after the defeat of the Islamic State organization. “An artisanal exfiltration,” explains Marie Dosé, Nelly’s lawyer, who details the adventures in detail, between the DGSE, the Syrian authorities, the Kurds, the individuals on site…

“State mistreatment”

Kylian is now a teenager. A shock for his mother, who had not seen him since he was 6 years old. And who will still have to wait. Barely arriving in France, on January 24, 2023, the son was sent to the juvenile prosecutor's office. A difference with other countries, where “we immediately recreate the link between the child and his family”, underlines the lawyer, who does not hesitate to speak of “state mistreatment”.

This is because we must ensure that the young returnee has not been (too) indoctrinated – he will be interviewed twice by the DGSI – and above all that his mother will be able to take him home. In short, it will also have to prove itself in terms of reintegration.

For two weeks, Nelly will not even be able to see her son, entrusted to a child welfare home. The time for the judicial investigation to conclude. And that the hearing that the children's judge will have with the mother on February 8 will allow her to assess whether she "is perfectly aware that her son is no longer the one who left," says Chloé Sallée, a judge of the Nice court, responsible for around ten children returning from the Syrian-Iraqi zone (but not Kylian).

This report reveals the seriousness but also the anxieties of French anti-terrorist justice, faced with the possible return of budding terrorists. The staging is sometimes borderline, in the style of BFM-TV. The sequence of Nelly and Kylian's reunion, at the end of this long journey, is illustrated by moving computer-generated images, on a soundtrack that may be found tearful.