Bulletin: North East Syria Updates – 25.2.2019

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Key events

– Hundreds of people are leaving Baghouz, the last hold-out of ISIS, to al-Hol camp in Hasekeh, where the number is day by day increasing and around 40,000 refugees are currently being held.

– The number of surrendered and imprisoned IS fighters is increasing significantly (exact amount not confirmed). The majority of worldwide states refuse to take their citizens back.

– The Middle East youth conference took place in Kobane last weekend

Spotlight: Brief report from our researchers in Baghouz, Deir-ez-Zor

This week two of our researchers visited the initial processing point for those leaving Baghouz, the last hold-out of ISIS.

According to our observations and corroborating sources we estimate that between 4500 and 6000 people exited the camp in the space of a couple of days.

These included 2 Yezidi women, their 5 children, and 11 Yezidi orphans who were liberated by SDF forces. They spent the past 5 years enslaved in Syria after being captured by ISIS in Shengal. The youngest children were born inside the so-called caliphate.

One civil volunteer working with the autonomous administration told our researchers that been told by one of the men that they [ISIS militants] were “sending women and children away to be able to fight without obstacles, that they would win and reinstall the ISIS flag in Raqqa”. The volunteer explained to us that they were here to help with the removal of people from Baghouz and to provide them with food, water and medical care until their arrival in Al-Hol camp.

The SDF were present in large numbers, most of them occupied with processing and searching. Some children were starving and our researchers witnessed some clearly close to death. One infant died in its mother’s arms while we were there. Few elderly women could be seen but those present were also in a particular dire state. Many of these families owned nothing but their clothes. The contrast was stark with other families who seemed much more healthy, carrying a lot of bags, especially MOLLE-style military backpacks. Some women were clearly wearing military jackets from their husbands.

We heard that food was being sold at a high price inside Baghouz, confirming previous reports about amplification of a rigid class system while the situation becomes grave inside the ISIS holdout. Among the women leaving the area were a lot of Iraqi and Turkish citizens. We got confirmation of presence of women from Tunisia, Belgium, Uzbekistan, Canada, America, Russia, the UK, Australia, France, and Germany.

At one point our researchers witnessed the SDF discover and arrest a man who had disguised himself in women’s clothing in an attempt to escape custody. Security is tight at the camp, provided by multiple constituent groups of the SDF on foot, in technical, humvees and observing by drones. We also noted coalition vehicles travelling in the same direction as the convoy of men leaving the camp. French, British and American military forces and intelligence agencies have been monitoring arrivals at the camps and have a significant presence on the ground.

There are still thousands of people inside the enclave, among them many Yazidis. SDF commanders maintain their line about waiting for extraction before final assault. We couldn’t get any official confirmation about the presence of hostages and final negotiations.

On the Ground

In Kobane the Youth Conference of the Middle East took place and ended with the election of a general coordinating committee of Middle East Youth. Read more

In Rimelan the conference of HPC delegates from Region Cizire took place and a new general council was elected. The HPC is the most important community-based structure ensuring interior security in the Autonomous Self-administration. Read more

People have launched a campaign to clean up the Jazira canton of Rojava, where trash is a serious problem. Read more

A gas tank exploded in Hol Camp, injuring a number of refugees. the camp is being widened to meet exceptional demand as thousands of refugees flood in and the humanitarian situation continues to be grave. Read more

A new women’s security force was established in Shengal, the Yazidi homeland previously assaulted by ISIS. Read more.

New women’s center opens in the Raqqa countryside. Read more

The war against ISIS

Donald Trump confirms that he will maintain 400 US troops on the ground of Syria, partially reneging on previous assertions of a full withdrawal. The further withdrawal of US forces started. Read more

SDF Commander Adnan Afrin confirmed the military fall of ISIS and but said the declaration of final siege is depending on the evacuation of all civilians from the area. Read more

Yazidi children, liberated from ISIS, will be returned to their families. Read more

Statements and interviews: 

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denied a Russian-Turkish consensus about their interests in the region: “We have no common opinion with the Turks and their classification of the Kurds as terrorists”. Read more


Turkish-backed jihadists in the Shebha region have flooded the land, causing problems for the sowing of this year’s crops. Read more.

Kidnappings and theft of property and money continue in Afrin at hands of Turkish-backed jihadists. Read more

School in Efrin turned into training center for Turkish-backed forces. Read more

A large explosion rocked the site of a military parade, with an unknown number of casualties reported. Read more

Rojava IC Reports

Photos and videos were provided by RojavaIC for several media e.g. DPA, The Independent, NBC, ITV News. Read more

Rojava IC reporter gave an interview with BBC world service. Our interviews were also broadcast on American, Spanish, French and Moroccan radio. Hear more

Interview opportunities with civil and military structures set up for international media e.g. Wochenzeitung, Die Welt, Middle East Eye. Read more