SOHR exclusive | Hussein Omar: “foreign countries will not take back their citizens imprisoned in Ghuwayran and ISIS members have turned into ticking bombs” • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Hussein Omar: “foreign countries will not take back their citizens imprisoned in Ghuwayran and ISIS members have turned into ticking bombs”

Top event of the attack on “Al-Sina’a / Ghuwayran prison” in Al-Hasakah city is still raising many questions about the way ISIS members could reach the prison, especially with a base of the “International Coalition to Counter the Islamic State” neighbouring it. Some analysts have accused the forces controlling that region of “slackness” which has paved the way for ISIS members to reach and break into the prison and helping prominent figures to escape, where they have warned against repetition of this dangerous scenario which might have led to a real disaster in that region. The analysts have also warned against the dangerous repercussions of easing surveillance procedures in places hosting ISIS prisoners.


Several bodies, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), have been repeatedly called for finding a workable solution for the non-Syrian members of the terrorist organization and coordinating with their countries to take them back before it is too late. While SOHR has been all along warning against similar attacks in Al-Hawl camp and other prisons.


In an exclusive interview, the anti-regime Syrian politician, Hussein Omar has told SOHR that ISIS has never been eliminated, as it is now an ideology instilled in to the segments of the Sunni Muslim communities. Although ISIS has lost all areas it controlled previously in Syria, its ideology has remained drawing its power from ISIS supporters. Mr. Omar also sees that the attack on Al-Sina’a prison is related to several factors, such as the closure of crossings with the aim to tighten the siege imposed on the Autonomous Administration, abet attacks against it and stir up public anger.



Q: After the latest attack on Ghuwayran prison by the extremist organisation, despite the presence of a military base near the attacked area, do you expect a powerful comeback by ISIS after regrouping following its heavy losses?


A: I think that conditions, timing and the way ISIS followed to break into Al-Sina’a in Al-Hasakah city prison have to be taken into consideration, before I judge if ISIS comeback is imminent.


First, the “Islamic State” is an ideology that had grown among Sunni Muslim communities, before it turned into a violent terrorist armed group.


Now, the group does not publicly control a specific and identified geographical area. However, its supporters are everywhere, and this is the base the group relies on to continue spreading their “extremist” ideas and views. This ideology, dubbed “ISIS” or any other name, will remain in this environment, as long as governments do not have any strategies to change these communities’ “wrongful” believes. There are no even efforts to raise awareness and refute pretexts that spur residents, especially tribal communities, to follow “extremist” ideologies.



Q: Is there a relation between the attack on Al-Hasakah prison and the latest events in the Iraqi province of Diyala, and how serious is this?


A: Of course, the two events are related. Also, the escalation by Turkish forces on SDF-held areas and Sinjar, which has been manifested in the violent bombardment on villages and areas hosting displaced people in Al-Shahbaa, Ain Issa, Zarkan and Tel Tamr, is related to the escalating operations by ISIS in Iraq, precisely Diyala, Kirkuk and Saladin. I think that the preparations before ISIS attack also have to be taken into account, where crossings to SDF-held areas have been closed in order to tighten the siege imposed on these areas and portray the Autonomous Administration unable to secure the residents’ basic essentials; this, in turn, has stirred up public anger.


All these factors have paved the way for the attack.



Q: What do you think of the accusations against SDF of “slackness to unveil this serious plan” which would lead to a disaster in Al-Hasakah?


A: I can say that there were “slack” preparations for reacting to expected attacks by ISIS. The prison’s building itself is not well-fortified, as the height and thickness of the walls are not enough. Also, the location of the prison which poses a threat to all SDF-held areas with many military plots being set inside the prison to attack the Autonomous Administration, as well as the presence of a popular base around the prison, let alone complicity by agents serving in the ranks of SDF-backed military formations, who definitely helped the attackers to access to the prison and open its gates.


However, the rapid response by SDF and Asayish Forces, including their deployment and clashes with the attackers and prisoners who managed to seize weapons of the prison’s guards, played a major role in containing the operation in a small position. Without this rapid response, thousands of prisoners could escape and the region would experience a real disaster.



Q: In your opinion, why do many regional and western countries refuse to take their citizens, ISIS members and their families and affiliates, back from Ghuwayran prison and Al-Hawl camp? IS not this further burdening SDF and the Autonomous Administration which find themselves are forced to guard such large number of members?


A: That is absolutely right, but this situation will not change, as no country in the world would take back all of its terrorist citizens held in the prisons of the Autonomous Administration which has not chose to deal with “ticking bombs” that may explode at any time.


The foreign countries, western one in particular, seem satisfied with getting rid of such large number of extremists. In my opinion, they do not plan to take them back or try them soon.



Q: What do you think of the reports and accusations against the International Coalition of “paving the way for the attack by helping senior ISIS commanders to escape?”


I have no information about this matter, but I think that such accusations have been circulated by Russia and Syrian regime to cover their failure to counter terrorism, especially since ISIS move comfortably in areas under the control of Russian and regime forces. However, they have not launched a real military operation to eliminate ISIS.



Q: Whenever there is a political settlement looming, Syrian regime and the opposition show strict intransigence which manifested itself in the challenges the constitutional commission entrusted to draft the country’s constitution has faced and ongoing efforts to paralyse its progress…who are the beneficiaries of keeping the situation in Syria unchanged?


A: I think that the formation of the constitutional commission was just an attempt to wrap around the international resolutions, especially the Resolution No. 2254 which clearly identified the steps should be taken to reach a workable political settlement in Syria. However, Russia and Turkey resorted to this “innovation”, the constitutional commission, in order to evade proceeding with that resolution, so that conflict in Syria continues for longer time, according to their agendas.


Accordingly, maintaining the situation in Syria unchanged serves Russia and Turkey and their affiliates, the Syrian regime and the Syrian National Coalition.



Q: How do you explain the “shameful” silence towards Turkey’s threats to invade north Syria? And why are international and regional powers unable to confront Turkification in that region?


A: I think that that international powers are satisfied with Turkey’s crimes against Syria and its people, especially in the north-eastern region, and there is international complicity with the military, political and cultural violations and reprehensible practices by Turkey.


Turkey is a key power in the Middle East with mutual interests with many countries around the world. Thus, these counties will not risk their interests with Turkey by helping Syrian people to regain their freedom, against Turkey’s will.


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