Benmezian had escaped from a refugee camp in northeastern Syria that was bombed by Turkey a few weeks ago.
The news puts the Belgian government in a difficult position since officials in Brussels publicly stated that it would be difficult for Belgian nationals that joined the Islamic State to escape Syria.
Belgian Interior Minister, Pieter De Crem, in early October had claimed no Islamic State members would be able to escape since the camps were protected by French and British forces following a controversial incursion by Turkey against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.
13, hundreds of women belonging to the terrorist organizarion escaped the Ain al Issa camp after it was struck by Turkish bombardments.
Ilham Ahmed, a senior Syrian Kurdish official of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), told a congressional hearing on Oct.
23 that a total of 600 escaped, including six French nationals, two Belgian ones, and 10 more foreigners.
The Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens at the time said only a ‘few women escaped,’ as reported by Algemeen Dagblad news.
However, OCAD, the Belgian Threat Analysis Agency, later confirmed that two Belgian Islamic State fighters had also escaped from a local prison.
Minister Geens tried to assuage concerns over their return and claimed that the Turkish border was closed and ‘very well-protected,’ so there was no threat of returning Islamic State Belgian nationals.
The recent arrest of Benmezian shows how porous the Turkish border is.
The arrest follows the recent news of two Dutch Islamic State women, who escaped the infamous al-Hol camp and crossed the Syrian-Turkish border before travelling all the way to the Dutch embassy in Ankara to report themselves to the authorities.
Belgian journalist Guy Van Vlierden, working for the Het Laatste Nieuws, told Kurdistan 24 that the incident is ‘quite embarrassing’ for the Belgian government.
“The Belgian government has based its policy entirely on what it thinks the public opinion wants: to not allow foreign terrorists fighters (FTF) to come back,” he argued.
“They first said the chance was slim for any FTF to escape.
After it happened, they alleged that men were still safely imprisoned.
And after the men escaped, they said the Turkish border would stop them.”
“It has since adapted its entire narrative that leaving them in the conflict zone is the best solution, which backfires time after time.”
Both the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition’s main ally on the ground, have called on countries in the European Union to bring home thousands of their nationals who joined the Islamic State and who were captured in Syria by the Kurdish-led forces, as Iraq has done on a limited scale.
However, most European states have been reluctant to bring back the fighters, women, and their children, who are currently trapped in Syria.
Turkey’s Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, on Monday warned that Ankara would be sending captured Islamic State members back to their countries even if their citizenships have been revoked, Reuters reported.
Benmezian is not the only Belgian female Islamic State member to escape.
Tatiana Wielandt (27) and Bouchra Abouallal (27) escaped the Ain al issa camp in October and are now staying in a tent in the Syrian territory under Turkish control. Analysts and experts fear the possibility that they could also be smuggled to Turkey in the future.
Editing by Nadia Riva