Trials are held the ISIS style in al-Hol camp: Autonomous Administration

Al-Hol camp for internally displaced persons in rural al-Hasakah, northeastern Syria (Hawar News)

Al-Hol camp for internally displaced persons in rural al-Hasakah, northeastern Syria (Hawar News)

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The Office of Refugees, Displaced, and Affected Persons’ Affairs of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has replied to a 21 January statement by the United Nations (UN).

In the statement, the UN expressed concern over the deteriorating security at al-Hol Camp, where several residents were reported dead lately.

“Some party is holding field trials according to ISIS laws within the camp. Those with liberal mindsets or who have criticized ISIS’ practices are being executed,” the office stated. ISIS commanders have stayed in touch with and are guiding their recruits in the camp.

ISIS has ramped up its activities after the Turkey-backed armed opposition groups took over the cities of Ras al-Ayn and Tall Abiad. This has largely affected the situation inside the camp, the office said in a statement on Sunday, 24 January.

The security forces are providing protection inside the camp and have arrested several ISIS sleeper cells there. These forces have also prevented several weapon trafficking and smuggling operations into the camp, which according to the statement, have been carried out by regional actors, including Turkey.

Addressing the situation of ISIS fighters’ children, the office denied that they are being subjected to any forms of imprisonment, particularly enforced detention. “Children are treated as needed,” with particular care for orphans.

“ISIS fighters’ wives, who are in the camp, are still trying to instill the organization’s ideology in these children.”

The office blamed UN agencies and international organizations for the insufficient support for the administration’s efforts to “rehabilitate; eliminate and curb extremism; establish security; and provide the necessary assistance.”

UN agencies’ cooperation with the AANES to control the situation is essential, and quick intervention would have a major positive impact, the office emphasized.

UN concerned

On January 22, the UN expressed serious concern over the deteriorating security conditions at al-Hol camp.

In a joint statement, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Imran Riza, and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi, reported that between 1 and 16 January, the UN received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents, including one female Iraqi refugee. Another person was critically injured in a violent attack.

“The disturbing events indicate an increasingly untenable security environment at al-Hol,” the statement said.

“The recent rise in violence among the camp population . . .jeopardizes the ability for the UN and humanitarian partners to continue to safely deliver critical humanitarian assistance and services to residents.”

Mr. Riza and Mr. Hadi emphasized the urgent need for durable solutions to be found for every person living in the camp, adding that such solutions must be “informed, voluntary, and dignified.”

What does Asayish say about these deaths

On January 13, the AANES-affiliated Internal Security Forces (Asayish) justified the recent deaths in al-Hol camp, saying that they occurred while forces stopped ISIS recruits from entering weapons into the camp or thwarted attempts at establishing a wilaya— an ISIS administrative unit, which means a province.

“Syrians and Iraqis who left the town of al-Baghouz, [former ISIS stronghold], formed some sort of a province in the part of the camp where they live,” and are providing light weapons to ISIS fighters that are delivered by the workers of organizations operating in the camp, the pro-AANES Hawar news reported.

Asayish has asked the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS for equipment and weapon detectors, but has so far received nothing, said Dersim Hassan, a member of the Asayish’s administration.

Such murders have become recurrent within the camp, particularly in sections 3, 4, and 5. From half-2019, 82 persons were recorded dead, 11 of them died in early 2021.

Al-Hol camp

The camp was established in the 1990s to accommodate five thousand Iraqi refugees. Today, it houses 35 thousand Syrians, nearly 43% of the camp’s population, and almost as many as Iraqis.

The camp also provides shelter to nearly 10,000 persons from 30 to 40 different countries.

After March 2019, when the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attacked and controlled the last ISIS-held strongholds, many of these areas’ residents flocked into the camp.

At the time, over 60,000 displaced persons and refugees, of which nearly 40,000 were families of ISIS fighters, sought refuge in the camp, in addition to the people of neighboring villages and towns after they were forced out from their homes by hostilities.

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