The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Having left Al-Hawl camp | Syrian families suffer from dreadful living conditions and indifference of international community and humanitarian organisations

The repercussions of the Syrian war, which has been rigging since 2011, has been catastrophic and contributed to emerging scores of worrying phenomena, dividing Syrian society and forcing thousands of families to displace in refugee camps which are strewn everywhere across the entire Syrian geography.


In north Syria, several camps have been established because of the ongoing war, where regional and international powers have turned that region into a battlefield with every power seeking for achieving its narrow interests. The “Islamic State” organisation has been the most prominent conflicting power in Syria, even after the elimination of the organisation as a controlling power in Al-Raqqah in 2017 and in Deir Ezzor’s Al-Baghouz, ISIS’ last stronghold in Syria, in 2018. The devastating battles against the organisation have forced thousands of Syrian families, including women and children of families of ISIS members to flee to refugee camps, mainly Al-Hawl and Al-Rouj.


Between 2019 and 2021, hundreds of families have been evacuated from Al-Hawl camp, after mediations by tribal elders and dignitaries and after making sure that these families have not been involved any crimes or violations. In this period, 1,200 families from Al-Raqqah, including 3,200 children, were evacuated from Al-Hawl camp and transported to Al-Raqqah in five patches, under an initiative to reintegrate them with the Syrian society.


SOHR activists in Al-Raqqah have reported that most of the children, who have been evacuated from the camp, do not have ID documents or birth certificates, and that they only have documents granted by Al-Hawl camp’s administration. These documents clarify that the mothers of those children are Syrians, while the fathers are of Arab and foreign nationalities.


Other challenges have faced women who married when they were minors, their ages were below 18, as they had not officially registered their marriage and have no official marriage contracts, and most of them have become mothers.


In an earlier interview with SOHR, Sheikh Huwaidi Shalash Al-Mujaham said, “Syrian families in Al-Hawl camp are struggling with extremism and violence adopted by women of other nationalities, where many Syrian women have endured violent acts and received threats of killing, while children have followed and adopted an ideology based on violence and spite because of the environment they have been raised in. Some elders and dignitaries from Al-Raqqah and I mediated and guaranteed some families from Al-Raqqah, after appeals by their families to save them by evacuating them from the camp and attempting to integrate them with the Syrian society once again.”


Speaking to SOHR, the director of “Oxygen” organisation, Bashar Al-Karraf said, “after the liberation of Al-Raqqah from ISIS, it was turned into a mini-state, as many displaced families from other provinces sought a safe haven in Al-Raqqah, especially since essential livelihood have become available. We, the local activists, have vowed to share the dire living conditions with our Syrian brothers. The category affected the most are those families who have been evacuated from Al-Hawl camp, mostly children, where they were reintegrated with the Syrian society and housed with other families from Al-Raqqah. The most difficult problem which we faced was the reintegration of children of families of ISIS members, where the general environment inside Al-Hawl camp turned them into ‘Caliphate Cubs.’ The ideology which those children were saturated with was very far from the nature and traditions in Al-Raqqah. Accordingly, we decided to form the dispute resolution committee in Al-Raqqah, which comprised tens of activists and tribesmen concerned with monitoring and tracking the situations of the families who have been evacuated from Al-Hawl camp and activating programs for rehabilitating women by launching projects which could secure income for those women and provide job opportunities for women, especially those who have high degrees. On the other hand, children were undergone educational courses and psychological support, in cooperation with the educational committee in Al-Raqqah. Over 100 children returned to schools, and this was the most important achievement.”


A judge and member of the dispute resolution committee known as Mohamed Al-Da’il told SOHR, “since we established the committee, we tracked the situations of the women and children, who have been evacuated from Al-Hawl camp, and granted them ID documents in cooperation with the civil registry of Al-Raqqah, relying on the information mentioned in the IDs granted earlier by Al-Hawl camp’s administration, so that those families can benefit from bread and fuel allowances, like the other families inhabiting in Al-Raqqah.”


Speaking to SOHR, a 42-year-old woman known as “Um Ali” from Salibah area in Al-Raqqah, who was evacuated from Al-Hawl camp, said “two years ago, I, my four children, my brother’s wife and her three children were evacuated from Al-Hawl camp, after having stayed there for three years. We were inhabited in a house in Al-Ferdaws neighbourhood in Al-Raqqah city, with the help of charitable people. Those people and our neighbours also secured all essentials that we need. With the help of the dispute resolution committee and Oxygen organisation, our children have been admitted to courses of psychological support and rehabilitation, while my brother’s wife and I were undergone other courses. My brother is detained for being an ISIS member who worked for ISIS groups in Al-Hasakah.”


“The living condition is dire, especially with the lack of job opportunities. Food allowances and financial support did not cover us, because we have no an official family documents. Such documents are required for receiving support provided by organisations. In addition, we did not received diesel allocations in the past two years. I cannot return to my city, Latakia, because it is under the control of regime forces,” added the woman.


In a war-damaged house in Al-Badow neighbourhood in Al-Raqqah, three families of four women and 11 children from Deir Ezzor, Al-Raqqah and Aleppo have been struggling with dire living conditions since they were evacuated from Al-Hawl camp.


A 38-year-old woman known as “Um Salem, who lives in this house  told SOHR, “we left Al-Hawl camp two years ago, after having endured cruel treatment by some extremist women, one of whom already set our tent on fire for ‘non-compliance with sharia cloths.’ Such practices have forced me and some families from Al-Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Aleppo to register for leaving Al-Hawl camp for Al-Raqqah. We were evacuated from the camp, after mediation by the elder of Al-Afadelah tribe, Sheikh Huwaidi Shalash Al-Mujaham, who secured a shelter for us. I inhabited in this house with a sister from Al-Raqqah, whose family had abandoned her, and another sister from Aleppo, although it had sustained considerable damage and does not protect us from the bad weather in summer and winter. Moreover, we do not receive any financial support by relief organisations or benefit from diesel allowances. We have no breadwinners, as we are just four women and 11 children, and the living costs, including food, water and cloths, are very high, while the cold weather in winter make us shoulder further burdens.”