Local security forces intervened at Syria’s al-Hol camp on Monday after women accused of Islamic State membership were attempting to impose strict rules much like those under the so-called caliphate. At least 50 were arrested, and one was killed.
Mustafa Bali, the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) press office, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the situation at al-Hol “is deteriorating sharply.”
Bali suggested that Islamic State “militants have stepped up their regrouping efforts through women in the camp,” warning the development would be “dangerous in the future unless governments take responsibility for their citizens.”
The situation in al-Hawl camp is deteriorating sharply as Daesh militants have stepped up their regrouping efforts through women in the camp recently. This is going to be very dangerous in future unless governments take responsibility for their citizens. pic.twitter.com/xrEYrlHckk
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) September 30, 2019
Security forces at the camp allegedly received information that the women accused of Islamic State membership were attempting to establish courts in the foreigner section of the al-Hol camp, local media reported.
When security intervened, a riot apparently erupted where one woman was killed, and seven injured.
Other local news agencies said six women were transferred to a hospital in al-Hasakah, including a Russian national.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the women involved in the riots at the camp were working undercover as so-called Islamic State moral police (or Hisbah).
SOHR also claimed the women were using light firearms. It is unclear how they managed to obtain these weapons.
The number of security incidents has increased at the al-Hol camp, with many being linked to women with alleged Islamic State affiliation. Most of them involve attacks against other females.
“If you don’t wear a niqab [full-face veil], you will be attacked,” Umm Aymenn, a Dutch citizen at the al-Hol camp, told Kurdistan 24 in a March 2018 interview.
“There are people like Russians that really see you as unbelievers, so it’s not so safe here, also not for the children.”
According to a Sunday report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “tensions remain high in the [al-Hol] camp with security incidents reported on a weekly basis, recently against contractors working on site.”
“In the first three weeks of September, 128 tents were also reported as burned across different phases of the camp, primarily to receive new items in advance of winter.”
The al-Hol camp was built to house 40,000 individuals but currently holds over 69,000 people—94 percent are women and children. Among them are roughly 30,000 Iraqis.
The camp witnessed a sharp increase in numbers of residents as the US-backed SDF launched an offensive to defeat the Islamic State in its last bastion of Baghouz, which ended in March 2019.
There is little agreement on what to do with the camp’s residents. Many nations, notably European Union member states, have shown great reluctance to take back their nationals now at the camp because of fears they pose a security threat.
The local self-administration in northeast Syria has called on countries to take back their citizens and said it is ready to facilitate the transit of women and children to their home countries.
Riyad Derrar, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), recently told Kurdistan 24 that if there is no solution, this could pave the way for “a new wave of extremism and terrorism,” especially since many women and fighters still believe in the Islamic State’s ideology.