The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Al-Hawl mini-state” in 2021 | 89 persons killed by ISIS and proxies, and harsh living conditions claim the lives of 74 children, while 780 families leave the camp under SDC initiative

SOHR calls on the international community to find an immediate and lasting solution for Al-Hawl crisis and urges putting a serious plan for rehabilitating the camp’s children and women.

The recurrent catastrophic events in Al-Hawl camp, located in the far southeast of Al-Hasakah, are clear evidence of the chaos that has been caused by the presence of Islamic States in Syria. The camp, hosting thousands of refugees and displaced people, has become a mini-state for ISIS affiliates and families: virtually a ticking bomb ignored by most of the world countries in an attempt to avoid the repatriation their citizens who had joined the notorious ISIS.

Al-Hawl is a home to at least 57,544 persons of different nationalities:

  • 7,972 Iraqi families consisting of 30,182 Iraqi nationals.
  • 5,275 Syrian families consisting of 19,070 Syrian nationals.
  • 2,427 families consisting of 8,292 European, Asian, African and other nationalities.

Under 18-year-old inhabitants of the camp are 36,743 children whose nationalities are the following:

  • 12,540 Syrians.
  • 18,377 Iraqis.
  • 5,826 of different foreign nationalities.

In this report, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented and detailed the developments in the camp in 2021.

Shortage of food and medicine kill dozens of children

The catastrophic conditions in Al-Hawl camp, the lack healthcare provisions, casting and the reluctance of all the international sides to provide a lasting solution to the humanitarian crisis in the camp have all contributed to further loss of lives.

SOHR documented the death of 74 children inside the camp in 2021 due to the worsening living and health conditions and shortage of medicine and food, acute shortage of medical services because of the reluctance of the international organisations to provide support.

Here is the distribution of fatalities:

  • 41 Iraqi children.
  • 23 Syrian children.
  • Ten European children.

It is worth noting that in 2020, SOHR documented the death of 209 persons, including 95 under 18-year-old children for similar reasons.

Growing number of crimes and unproductive counter security companions


In 2021, murder cases witnessed a big increase in Al-Hawl camp amid prevalent insecurity. ISIS cells were responsible for targeting primarily Iraqi refugees and displaced Syrians.

SOHR documented 84 crimes in Al-Hawl camp in 2021 that left 89 persons dead; these were as follows:


  • Two members belonging to Al-Asayish.
  • 67 Iraqi refugees, including three children and 19 women.
  • 20 Syrians, including a male and female children, six women and chairman of the Syrian Council in the camp.

The number crimes recorded in the camp in 2021 (84 murder cases) is more than twice higher than that recorded in 2020 which saw just 33 cases.  

Here is the monthly distribution of the murder crimes and fatalities:

  • January: 13 crimes (nine Iraqis and five Syrians were killed.)
  • February: Ten crimes (six Iraqis and four Syrians were killed.)
  • March: 17 crimes (15 Iraqis and three Syrians were killed.)
  • April: One crime (an Iraqi refugee was killed.)
  • May: Six crimes (five Iraqis and two Syrians were killed.)
  • June: Six crimes (four Iraqis and three Syrians were killed.)
  • July: Six crimes (six Iraqis were killed.)
  • August: Eight crimes (six Iraqis and three Syrians were killed.)
  • September: Three crimes (three Iraqi refugees were killed.)
  • November: Five crimes (five Iraqis were killed.)
  • December: Nine crimes (seven Iraqis and Two Syrians were killed.)

Meanwhile, March witnessed a large security campaign against ISIS cells in the Al-Hawl camp, starting on28, where joint forces comprising over 5,000 fighters of Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Internal Security Forces (Asayish) and Counter-Terrorism Special Units (H.A.T) unleashed a large-scale security operation targeting ISIS cells and affiliates, very reliable SOHR sources had confirmed.

Before the launch of the five-day operation, the joint forces disconnected the internet network and interrupted radio broadcasting in the camp. Anti-terrorism forces arrested nearly 100 of ISIS members and affiliates, most of whom were non-Syrians, including a senior leader “Abu Karrar” and another Iraqi official, Algerian “Al-Zakat Emir”, and 11 ISIS women who were involved in the killing and securing equipment used in the group operations.

The Syrian Observatory would like to point out that many more people, including women, were arrested during the five-day campaign, but were released later after interrogation.

The forces participating in the large-scale security campaign took the fingerprints of those aged 15 years and above in order to confirm their identities, confiscated weapons and equipment, and found several tunnels.

The escalating crimes in the camp raised many questions over how ISIS members and leaders entered the camp with such ease and no identity checks; the presence of security guards, and how weapons were smuggled into the camp and why no one was able to discover the existence of many tunnels inside the camp. There are also valid concerns regarding “corruption” in the ranks of the camp’s security guards.

However, the anti-ISIS large security campaign has not achieved its goals, while the camp has witnessed, after end the campaign, 44 crimes that left at least 47 persons.

Syrian and Iraqi families continue to leave the camp, and more children and women are repatriated to their European countries

Throughout 2021, Syrian families continued to leave the camp in accordance with the Syrian Democratic Council’s (SDC) initiative that aimed at evacuating the camp of Syrians. SOHR documented the evacuation of 780 families comprising 2,890 persons in several batches.

Here is the monthly distribution of the batches that left the camp:

  • January: 98 families comprising more than 334 persons.
  • February: 105 families comprising more than 400 persons.
  • March: 125 families comprising more than 525 persons.
  • May: 83 families comprising more than 271 persons.
  • June: 59 families comprising more than 202 persons.
  • July: 82 families comprising more than 299 persons.
  • September: 92 families comprising more than 324 persons.
  • October: 18 families comprising more than 75 persons.
  • November: 67 families comprising more than 259 persons.
  • December: 51 families comprising more than 200 persons.

Meanwhile, Al-Hawl camp administration has continued the evacuation of Iraqi families in coordination with the Iraqi side. By end of September, 100 families left the camp. By end of December, 123 Iraqi families comprising of 490 persons left the camp in coordination with Iraqi governmental delegation.

In 2021, dozens of children and women of ISIS families were handed over to official delegations from their countries as follows:

  • January: The Department of Foreign Relations of the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria handed over seven French orphans of ISIS families to representatives of France government, after signing a document between both sides, during the French delegation’s visit to the headquarters of The Department of Foreign Relations in Al-Qamishli city.
  • April: SOHR sources said that an official Russian delegation from the Commission on the Rights of the Child of the President of the Russian Federation arrived at the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Relations in the Autonomous Administration of northern and eastern Syria in the city of Al-Qamishli in order to receive 34 orphaned Russian children from Al-Hawl camp, whose parents had been killed in previous battles while fighting with ISIS, or in previous shelling on ISIS-held areas during the group’s control of the area.
  • April: SOHR sources said that the Department of Foreign Relations in the Autonomous Administration of northern and eastern Syria, handed over 92 Uzbeks, 24 women and 68 children, of the families of ISIS members held in Al-Hawl camp to representatives of the Uzbek government, under an official return document signed by representatives of the Uzbek side at the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Relations in Al-Qamishli city.
  • June: SOHR sources reported that the Department of Foreign Relations of the Autonomous Administration in northern and eastern Syria handed over a Dutch woman, her two children and another orphan child of ISIS families, who were held in Al-Hawl camp, to representatives of the Dutch government, in presence of the Netherlands Special Envoy for Syria. The handover of the woman and children took place under an official return document signed by the Dutch delegation at the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Relations in Al-Qamishli city.

We, at SOHR, renews our calls to the international community to immediately find a lasting solution for the Al-Hawl problem

We, at SOHR, urge international human rights organisations to put an immediate and serious plan for rehabilitating women and children in the camp who were saturated with ISIS ideology, given the large number of children and the widespread presence of the group cells in the camp that continue to impart their poisonous ideas to the residents of the camp, particularly women and children.