An exclusive by Buyerpress
Investigated by: Ahmed Abuo Alan
There are more than fifty nationalities in Al-Hol camp. The number of Syrians and Iraqis in the camp exceeds 71,000 ( women and children), including 12,000 foreigners, (4,000 women and 8,000 children – among them orphans).
Al-Hol is a town. It is located in the east of Hasaka governorate in the Northeast of Syria. It is the administrative center of Al-Hol district that contains 22 municipalities. The camp of Al-Hol was first in 1990s to host Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. It was controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF in 2016 after the Islamic State “ISIS” was expelled from the area and allocated it to the families of the ISIS organization after it was defeated in March 2019 in its last strongholds in the village of “Al-Baghouz”, east of the Euphrates.
Al-Hol camp is equivalent to the size of Kobani city, which ISIS tried to occupy and failed to do so. As a result, the international coalition came and supported the “People ( and Women) Protection Units” (YPG, YPJ).
The recent Turkish invasion has given hope to pro-ISIS families in that camp that they could escape, this was in conjunction with the claim of the leader of the organization Abu Bakir Al-Baghdadi before he was killed in a raid by the international coalition in Idlib, Syria, in late 2019, where his supporters demanded the liberation of ISIS women in the camps.
The Turkish aggression has distracted the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Internal Security Forces (Asayiş) from protecting the facilities hold 1200 detainees, from ISIS, including princes ( Emirs) and other top leaders. It has also caused security concerns in the camps, such as in Al-Hol, which houses 71,000 people, including 50,000 ISIS loyalists and their families.
The most dangerous salafi-jihadi woman escaped and reached Turkey.
The camp has witnessed many escapes, which were carefully planned, including the escape of ” Fatiha Mejjat “, the most dangerous known woman in the radical Salafi community (formerly Al-Qaeda and now IS ), she was transferred during the Turkish aggression and attack on Rojava (NE Syria)- to dismantle its large network in a camp Al-Hol -, to Ain Issa camp. When the Ain Issa camp was shelled by Turkish Army, she was transferred immediately to the city of Kobani, and when the Turkish army specifically targeted the “Kobani prison” which was near the “American-French” center, “Fatiha Mejjat” managed to escape and now she lives in Turkey.
Camp of fear and terror
There have been many killings and assassinations in the camp, Its circumstances are difficult to disclose due to the confidentiality of those operations that are being planned by the women of the organization in the camp. Many of the camp’s security guards have been stabbed by ISIS women and it is impossible to know the perpetrator because of their large numbers and their black uniform.
Khalat,( it is a nickname) is the security leader in Al-Hol Camp, talked to us about finding the body of a woman in her thirties, which was slaughtered and cut into four parts then be hidden in a sewer of the camp. The body was discovered after an international service organization started to repair and restore Sanitary sewer. That woman had died after she was presented to “Sharia court” established by the women of the organization in the camp.
These operations caused terror and fear among the camp residents. The vast majority of the people in the camp still follow the ideology of IS organization, even after the killing of their leader, Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi
Is it a Camp or a detention?
Our attempt to know about the security methods to deal with ISIS women has failed. (Khalat) refused to disclose it, and also She refused to provide us with surveillance and prosecution of the perpetrators of crimes in the camp. But she talked about their lack of capabilities in guarding the camp. ” Al-Hol camp is 17 km long and is surrounded by a very simple fence,” said Khalat. “The international organizations working in the camp are refusing to build a wall around the camp under the pretext that it is a camp and not a prison. Unfortunately, they know very well the severity of the camp residents”.
According to Khalat, the distance between each observation and guard point is 200 meters, it considers insufficient for a camp of 17 km long. She noted that the entire camp lacks the surveillance cameras.
“We have some surveillance cameras but they are very few, they must be distributed to all the camp, as well as the night light is lacking inside the camp and around the entire fence. We do not have the capabilities to achieve this and the countries concerned have not taken care of this yet.” She added.
Thwart escape attempts and 600 people have been re-arrested
“After the leader of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi, claimed to liberate the women of ISIS in the camps at any cost, the sleeper cells of the organization were activated,” said Khalat, “There were many escape attempts, and we failed 600 cases”.
While we wandering inside Al-Hol camp in non-dangerous places that permitted by the security forces of the camp, we noticed that the majority of the camp residents have mobile phones.
” most of the ISIS women (Iraqis and Syrians) have the mobile phones openly, but the foreign ISIS women use the phones very secretly. There is no internet service in the camp, but they activate the internet on the Syrian prepaid network service, then they can communicate with the outside in order to plan to escape” Khalat added .
5000 dollars is the price of smuggling each person from the camp
We met many ISIS women in the camp market, the majority of them talked to us about their needs for tents, food and et cetera…, but when we asked some of them if they had a desire to escape from the camp, they denied, perhaps for fear of the women leaders of ISIS and some of them talked about their lack of money, because the process of escape needs exorbitant sums. They mentioned numbers close to some of those numbers that Khalat had mentioned to us before. Syrian and Iraqi women have to pay 3000 dollars, while the foreigners have to pay 5000 dollars to reach the city of Hasaka, the closest city to Al-Hol camp. But 60 thousand dollars the price of smuggling foreign women from Hasaka to Idlib or Turkey.
“When one escapes from the camp”, Khalat said, “we issue an ( internal and secret) circular of names and nationalities, and also an official (internal and secret) notification is made to foreign countries bodies regarding the escape of any foreigner woman”.
Some women succeeded to escape from the camp and reached the city of Hasaka, then in the second stage, the sleeper cells of ISIS tried to get them out of Hasaka to Idlib or Turkey.
The security leadership (Khalat) revealed one of the cases of escape to us and when they arrested her on the outskirts of the city of Manbij at the border between the Syrian Democratic Forces ( SDF) and the Euphrates Shield Forces operating under the command of Turkish army: “The fugitive woman tried to enter the Euphrates Shield areas and it was the last station for her. But those who planned to escape her did not notice that the so-called Euphrates Shield had planted mines in the vicinity of the border areas controlled by them. So, a mine was exploded and injured her. Then our forces were able to rescue and take her to the hospital and then return her to the camp. “
Get and own money in the camp
There are money transfer offices in the camp, and they are under the supervision of the camp management. Some funds and monthly expenses are transferred to families who communicate with their families abroad. According to many women, those sums are only enough for a few days not more
After the organization was defeated in its last strongholds in al-Baghouz village, and thousands of ISIS families surrendered to the SDF, 50,000 ISIS families arrived at al-Hol camp, including families of first-class leaders, princes and security forces in the organization, they had hundreds of thousands of dollars. “When this large number of people arrived at Al-Hol camp, we searched ISIS women, we found large sums of money in their possessions they brought from al-Baghous. We put these money in the (Safety Depot) with official records, then we give 300 dollars each month to the owners of those sums to spend on their needs” Khalat told us, “unfortunately, and due to the huge numbers of ISIS women, there were those who have succeeded to hide the money they had and is still with them, and they are foreign women, of course”. Khalat ended her speech.
Foreign women are using the money they have secretly to try to escape. Secret contacts are made with people working abroad and they agree on the amounts, a third person is informed so that the smuggler does not carry out any treachery against the women of the organization.
Easy escape from the camp
The camp is surrounded by a simple mesh fence, and the camp is located in the valleys region. The distance of guard posts and observation from each other and the absence of night lights for the entire camp contribute to the success of some escape operations. The women inside with the smugglers outside are planning how to escape, (they agree among themselves about the day, the hour, and the section they will pass to out). And since the region has valleys around the camp, it is easy for the smuggler to bring cars, turn off its lights, wait for one of the women or perhaps a family, and take them to the city of Hasaka to start to prepare for the second stage to get them out of the Self-Administration areas.
Arresting the fugitive women and resending them back to the camp
Over 600 escapes in the camp were thwarted and arrested who tried. The security forces outside the camp have ways to reach the fugitives quickly. Recently, Anti-Terrorist Forces stormed a house in Hasaka and arrested ISIS’ women, there were two women with their children who had managed to escape from the camp. “We were informed by a circular (internal and secret) about the cases of women escaping of ISIS from Al-Hol camp, immediately and through our private sources we obtained information about the presence of women wearing hijab and black clothes similar to ISIS in a house in the city of Hasaka, we formed a team to storm the house, female fighters also accompanied us to search the women once they were arrested. We arrested two foreign women and their children. We succeeded in arresting the smugglers and the involvers . ” The leader of the storming operation explained to us.
One of the fugitives woman was Russian, she told a media outlet accompanied the Anti-Terror Forces in the storming operation: “I agreed with the smuggler, we passed the mesh fence of the camp, then a car was waiting for us and then we were taken to this house, where the smuggler promised to transport us on the second day to Jarablus, Turkey and then to Russia. “
ISIS is trying to smuggle women leaders out of the camp
Khalat, The security leadership has denied the information about the involvement of administrative members or camp guards in smuggling the women of the organization. Not only those who have money able to escape, there are also women leaders among the women organizations of ISIS in the camp. So, ISIS’ sleeper cells repeatedly attempt to get them out of the camp.
Women leaders, either they are the wives of some leaders and princes of ISIS or they are leaders who have secret information about the organization, specifically the locations of the funds that the leaders of the organization have hidden in many places that were under their control. “Through our own way, we obtained a list of women leaders of ISIS. ISIS sleeper cells tried to get them out quickly from the camp especially during the Turkish aggression. we controlled the situation and we immediately failed those plans.” Khalat said.
Old and easy ways to escape
The security forces arrested many smugglers they were from the camp residents, they were trying to use old, known and easy-to-discover escape ways. But they always try, so if any escape succeeds, there is a large amount of money the smuggler will gets.
“We arrested an ISIS’ woman, who hid herself in the garbage cart,” Khalat said ” I’m still thinking how she didn’t suffocate because of the bad smell of garbage !”
She also revealed to us the arrest of 12 ISIS’ woman who had hidden in an empty water tank in the camp, trying to escape from the camp. They arrested hundreds as they crossed the mesh fence as well.
Spy network in the camp
The Islamic State “ISIS” had many offices and organizations and still exists here in the camp. These offices and organizations are run by foreign leaders women who still believe in the return of the organization and the elimination of infidels in reference to (the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)). “We arrested a women’s organization that had raised the “homemade” ISIS’ flag on a mast in the camp and on some tents as well, this incident caused a media hype”, Khalat explained to us. According to Khalat, there is a “Sharia court” that is run by women of ISIS, the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” and the female guards “ Al-Hisba ”. Khalat added that it is difficult to monitor thousands of people who wear the same uniform, and also the names of many of them are nicknames.
“Just as we watch the organization and try to figure out what they are planning, there are ISIS’ women who are spying on us, too. We know about it. There are people who come to our administrative and security offices to find out who are working in the camp, including administrators and security personnel in order to know the names and their places of residence. This thing might help them in kidnappings and extortions to get some out of the camp. We have contingency plans in this regard”. Khalat sighed as she continued her speech.
The desire to revive the organization again
Most of the information the security team obtains from its own sources within the camp states that many women of the organization wish to escape from the camp, towards the city of Tal Abyad (Gri Sipi) which has been occupied by the Turkish occupation forces recently. According to reports published by the media center of the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF about the documentation of 181 ISIS’ former fighters accompanied the Turkish occupation army in the operation of occupying the city of Tal Abyad.
Most of those fighters have families in Al-Hol camp who communicate with them to smuggle and take them to the city of Tal Abyad.
The information confirms that they are working to revive the organization in the city of Tal Abyad, and also to get some of the leading women out to Turkey at Tel Abyad border-crossing, as it is under the control of Turkey, so the process of reaching Turkey became easy, compared to the difficulty of transferring women fugitives from Hasaka- the regions controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF – towards Idlib or Turkey.
“Al-Hol” … The ticking time bomb
Not a day goes by without hearing about the killings that took place in the camp, and recently, the plans of the women of the organization are starting to change, which is burning the tents, to create chaos in the camp, which may enable them to carry out a mass escape.
The living conditions in the camp are very difficult, as some 33 international organizations work in accordance with an agreement with Self-Administration. Many women in the camp complained of a major shortage of services provided by international organizations, by not providing what the families need.
Jaber Mustafa, “the Director of the Relations Office in Al-Hol Camp”, talks about the deportation of a batch of Iraqi citizenship in agreement with the Iraqi government, as well as an internal batch , by the guarantee of the tribal leaders in northeastern Syria. Mustafa added that 85% of the camp’s residents are ISIS families.
The Department of Foreign Relations of the Self-Administration of Northeastern Syria has announced in a statistics, that it had handed 347 children and women from the families of ISIS fighters to their countries during the year 2019.
The Foreign Relations Department indicated that the countries that received their nationals are: (France, the United States, Denmark, Russia, Australia, Sweden, Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sudan, Nigeria and the Republic of Trinidad).
Recently, under the auspices of the Russian and under the Turkish pressure, the UN Security Council refused to enter humanitarian aid through the crossings in the Self-Administration regions in Northeastern Syria.
under the Turkish pressure and under the auspices of the “Russian side”, the UN Security Council refused to enter humanitarian aid through the crossings in the Self-Administration regions of Northeastern Syria. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that the camps of the displaced people in Northeastern Syria are suffering from a “very disturbing” humanitarian situation, and could at any moment turn into a “ticking time bomb”.