Returnees from al-Hol camp to Deir Ezzor suffer community rejection

Families from Manbij city leave al-Hol camp (Hawar news agency)

Families from Manbij city leave al-Hol camp (Hawar news agency)

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After the return of families of former fighters in the Islamic State (IS) organization from the al-Hol camp to their local communities, they found an urgent need to appeal to local parties for assistance.

The lack of effective government vision for rehabilitating these families and reintegrating them into society has been a barrier to their return to normal life.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is making an effort to integrate the families of the organization’s fighters, especially the children, into the communities and to secure rehabilitation programs for them. However, these programs exclude Syrian families, including their children.

Integration into society

Khaldieh and her seven children faced challenges when they left the al-Hol displacement camp and settled in the al-Sousa neighborhood east of Deir Ezzor, as she told Enab Baladi.

Khaldieh (full name is withheld for security reasons) is the sole provider for her family, as her husband and eldest son joined the ranks of the Islamic State organization and were killed years ago.

The 45-year-old woman faced numerous difficulties after returning to her local community, as her house was damaged due to shelling, and she was forced to build a tent to provide shelter for herself and her children.

Intisar also lost her youngest son, who joined the Islamic State organization at the age of 13.

After returning from the al-Hol camp, where she resided for years, Intisar suffered from poverty and marginalization. Her children work by collecting plastic and metal scraps from the garbage and selling them to specialized merchants to secure some essentials for life.

The main concern for Intisar (name withheld for security reasons), as she told Enab Baladi, is the mistreatment she receives from neighbors and relatives, which adds to the difficulty of their daily lives.

She added that she, along with other families, suffers the long-term consequences of some of its members joining the Islamic State organization, manifested in the society’s view of relatives and family members of the individual in the organization.

Stigma

Other families face difficulties after returning to their local communities from the camps, and these difficulties affect all family members, including children, as they are subjected to harassment from neighbors and the local community, in addition to living in poverty.

One of the main problems identified by Enab Baladi through conversations with families who moved from the camps is the lack of government support and assistance.

The situation of widowed women who do not receive financial aid from organizations or local councils is an example of these difficulties, as they are unable to secure the essentials of life.

Asya expressed her desire to return to her original area during her conversation with Enab Baladi, but her fear of marginalization by the local community and her fear of integration with them prevented her from doing so, forcing her to stay as a displaced person in another area.

For Asya (full name is withheld for security concerns), the negative view she faces from the surrounding community poses an obstacle for her, as she feels compelled to deal cautiously with the local community due to considerations related to the previous affiliation of one of her family members with the Islamic State organization.

Autonomous Administration’s activity

Sondos Taha, an employee in the Women’s Committee affiliated with the Autonomous Administration in Deir Ezzor, told Enab Baladi that the committee prioritizes support and humanitarian aid for women and widows of IS members.

She added that during the past year, a humanitarian organization presented projects for teaching knitting and household management techniques, such as preparing food, sewing, and women’s beauty salons.

She also stated that the committee works on implementing awareness activities for adults from these families in an attempt to integrate these women into the community, intellectually rehabilitate them, and develop their culture.

Sondos believes that these women were influenced by the Islamic State organization and need support, but there are no centers or specialized entities to provide them with basic support.

Promises

The issue of releasing families from Deir Ezzor from these camps or from prisons designated for the IS organization has been a major demand for the people of Deir Ezzor province.

On November 23, AANES made a series of promises to alleviate the hostility between it and the tribes of Deir Ezzor, including the organized and periodic removal of families in the al-Hol camp originating from Deir Ezzor.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military arm of AANES, detains thousands of families in the al-Hol camp on charges of belonging to the Islamic State organization, which controlled the area before 2019.

Previously, the former co-chair of the Executive Council of the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD), Ilham Ahmed, stated in 2020 that the MSD had reached an agreement with the AANES to remove all Syrians from the al-Hol camp, which has not been implemented to date.

The al-Hol camp, east of al-Hasakah governorate, took its current form after a large influx of displaced persons from areas that were under the control of the Islamic State organization during the SDF attack on its last strongholds and its control of them, declaring the end of the organization on March 23, 2019.

The camp was established in the 1990s to accommodate 5,000 Iraqi refugees, and today houses 35 thousand Syrians, almost like them, Iraqis, and about 10,000 persons from 30 to 40 other countries.

 

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