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The death toll in the “Al-Hol” camp in northern Syria rose this year, with the increase in militancy and the attempt to impose the ideology of ISIS in the camp, which houses families of fighters in the organization.
The fragile security situation has worsened inside the camp, which is controlled by the “Syrian Democratic Forces”, in conjunction with efforts to return dozens of families to their communities and attempts to integrate them there, which also face many difficult challenges.
More than 70 people have been killed, officials said, since January this year, and the camp has become “a more dangerous and desperate place than ever before. Religious extremism is on the rise, endangering non-fanatics.”
Militant women are often blamed for the killings, “who take advantage of the fragile security to impose their restrictions and settle scores.”
Camp officials said security raids aimed at confiscating pistols, knives and other weapons “didn’t make a difference.”
About 70,000 people live in the camp, which covers an area of 736 acres, mostly women and children, many of whom were displaced due to the war in Syria and the battles against ISIS. It is estimated that these people come from about 60 countries, but the majority of them are Iraqis. .
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, last Sunday, that an Iraqi refugee was killed in the camp, and her body was found during the night hours.
Muhammad Bashir, the supervisor of some of the guards, enumerated the recent attacks, such as ambushes against the forces, throwing stones at aid workers, and a shop selling gold was looted, noting that the women in the camp resort to looting because of their need to buy supplies and pay the smugglers to get them out.
Imposing ISIS rules on inmates
And the Washington Post report notes that some of the camp’s most militant women are trying to reimpose Islamic State rules on the families around them.
Women who took off their face coverings are being tried in comic courts inside tents, and signs of “post-traumatic stress disorder” are common among the camp’s children, who have received little psychological support despite fleeing the terror during ISIS rule.
The Wall Street Journal had published a report explaining in detail the plans of ISIS to rebuild itself through its control of the camp, the smuggling of prisoners through extensive networks and fundraising operations, and the transfer of its leaders to Idlib.
While most foreign governments have done little to get their citizens back from the camp, local authorities are making efforts to bring Syrians home.
Thousands of Syrian men, women and children have already left, after local tribesmen ensured returnees had the opportunity to be reintegrated into their villages and towns of origin.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 644 Syrian families have been expelled from “Al-Hol” since the beginning of the year, as part of the ongoing process of emptying the camp of the displaced Syrians within an initiative launched by the “Syrian Democratic Council”.
Nobody wants them here.
The Washington Post report points to the difficulties facing the process of returning Syrians to Raqqa, as the people do not welcome their return and do not sympathize with them, while some of the returnees have disappeared from sight after their expulsion.
Many of the former detainees return to communities still suffering from the consequences of ISIS rule, and to neighborhoods devastated by war.
Members of three families who returned to Raqqa, the former ISIS capital in Syria, described a life of “poverty and isolation”, saying their neighbors ignored or ridiculed them.
“They should have helped us when we got back,” said Fatima Mustafa, 47, who was sitting on the floor of her family’s austere home.
Hassan Mustafa, a resident of Raqqa, told the newspaper: “They killed people and now we are back here and doing everything we have to rebuild. Do you think we have time to think about them?” His brother Ali agrees: “They should go back to their camp… Nobody wants them here.”
‘She just wanted to see Iraq again’
The report narrates the story of an Iraqi grandmother from Anbar named Warda Obeid (60 years old) who wanted to return home, but her health deteriorated with the passage of months of waiting, and she died and was buried in an area overlooking the camp.
Her nephew told the newspaper, “She just wanted to see Iraq again… She was tired and wanted to go home.”
Baghdad says it is working to repatriate its citizens held in al-Hol, but the initiative is “so politically charged in Iraq that the first major operation to repatriate them, earlier this summer, transferred fewer than 400 people, according to Iraqi officials.
The Ministry of Immigration revealed, earlier, that 94 families, including 384 individuals, had arrived from the “Al-Hol” camp.
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, Karim Al-Nouri, said in a statement to the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that “difficulties and security and clan problems for some of the displaced have obstructed the ministry’s path, as well as the presence of destroyed houses,” but “with the help of some international organizations, work was done to solve those problems.”He explained that “the time limit set by the ministry to return the displaced is the end of the current year, but there are difficulties, especially since the return is voluntary and not forced, which made some of the displaced stick to the camps because there is no role for them, and some of them may not own the house before their displacement.”