Original Article by Sana Sikander, The Siasat Daily, 26 September 2020

The video, posted online on September 11, shows Kurdish Asayesh (internal security) officers opening a compartment of a water tanker. Four women and six semi-conscious children under the age of eight emerge from the dark and tightly closed water tanker.

Asayesh officers splash water on the children to freshen them up, but they do not appear to move. Out of six children, only one child is seen having the energy to cry, other remain unconscious due to suffocation.

The first woman who emerged from the compartment turns to the cameraperson and says “don’t film … we are humans and not animals.”

 “You are from Iraq?” a female Asayesh officer asks one of the women. The woman appears to nod. 

Sheikhmous Ahmad, the head of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) office for internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees, confirmed to Rudaw English that the video is new and the residents were smuggled out of the overcrowded Al-Hol camp.

Approximately 68,000 people – including Syrians and Iraqis as well as those of foreign nationality – live in al-Hol camp. Nearly two thirds, approximately 43,000, are children.

A researcher with the Rojava Information Center (RIC) affiliated with SDF confirmed the attempted smuggling incident and told Rudaw English that hiding in water tankers is a common tactic for suspected ISIS members and their children trying to escape the camp. 

“This is quite routine and these of course are foreign nationals… who have paid a smuggler to bring them out of camp. It is a water tanker, but this method has no terribly high success rate. Yes they have given their children sleeping pills… They were detected and have been removed and returned to the detention camp,” said RIC’s Thomas McClure. 

Al-Hol Camp

After the fall of ISIS in 2019, many relatives of fighters who were detained or killed, including 10,000 families of foreign fighters, were housed in camps in territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The biggest camps include Roj and al-Hol. Like any closed society, the foreigners’ annex in al-Hol has its own dynamic. Families in the camp, hail from Europe, the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, and America. READ:  Prashant moves SC seeking review of fine imposed in contempt case

According to Middle East Institute, although al-Hol camp is often portrayed as either a hotbed of radical fanatics dedicated to ISIS or home to a bunch of poor housewives who were just following their husbands, the reality is much more complicated.

According to Russian-speaking females there, most camp residents — around 70 percent — feel they were used by ISIS’s leadership to realize its political goals and do not believe in the group anymore. By contrast, just 30 percent still support ISIS and think that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a rightful caliph but the group failed because he was surrounded by untrustworthy people.

According to European females in the camp, the percentage of ISIS supporters is even lower, at around 20 percent, and is constantly falling.

20-30 percent remain as radical fanatics dedicated to ISIS.