November 16, 2019 100

ISIS Wives Speak Out: Inside Syria’s Notorious Al Hol Camp | The Dispatch

ISIS Wives Speak Out: Inside Syria’s Notorious Al Hol Camp | The Dispatch


This place is called Al Hol. It’s a notorious refugee
camp in northeast Syria where many of the wives and
children of ISIS fighters are being held. The Kurdish-led forces who
guard this sprawling camp have struggled to secure it. Hardline women have attacked
them with stones and knives and ever since the
recent Turkish invasion, some of the guards
have been redeployed to the front lines. The fighting has
weakened Kurdish control across the region. And now the fear is
that the instability will give thousands of ISIS
fighters and their wives the chance to escape. We leave the area where
the Iraqis and Syrians stay and head over to
the foreigners’ section. Roughly 10,000 women and
children from at least 50 countries live here. These women had
traveled to join ISIS and many of their
home countries now refuse to take them
and their children back. We’d been warned by
guards that the camp’s most violent and
steadfast ISIS followers were to be found here. But we were met with
pleas for sympathy. Some of the women
were openly denouncing ISIS. But their motives
were not clear. Are they truly reformed
or are they just tired of living in this place? About two-thirds of the foreigners
are under the age of 12. There’s not much
for them here — no schools
or even running water. Across the camp, hundreds of children
have died from disease and malnutrition since the beginning
of the year. Even before the Turkish
invasion of northeast Syria, this camp was in crisis — a breeding ground
for the next generation of ISIS. But Kurdish-led
security was at least keeping ISIS in check. Now, as outside forces
undermine Kurdish authority, the question of
what will happen to these women
and children becomes more pressing than ever.

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