'Mini Caliphate': Will The Camp Kids Revive ISIS?

Published November 11th, 2019 - 08:27 GMT
Civilians evacuated from the Islamic State (IS) group’s embattled holdout of Baghouz wait at a screening area held in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 5, 2019. (AFP pic)
Civilians evacuated from the Islamic State (IS) group’s embattled holdout of Baghouz wait at a screening area held in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 5, 2019. (AFP pic)
Highlights
Women and children alike speak fondly of the 'caliphate' and pray for its return.

A camp full of ISIS brides and their children has turned into a 'mini caliphate' despite the death of its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in a US raid last month.

More than 70,000 people, mostly women and children, are kept at al Hol in northeast Syria and thousands of them are suspected ISIS fighters' families.

The Turkish invasion has depleted the Kurdish guards. Stabbings are common and there have been several murders.

'We're going to kill you by slaughtering you. We will slaughter you.' A ten-year-old boy told Sky News. 'God says, "Turn to Allah with sincere repentance in the hope that your Lord will remove you from your ills."' 

Children, many of them European, walk through the squalid camp with nobody but their radicalised mothers to seek guidance from.

Many of the women refused to talk to the broadcaster, others were strident in their convictions.

Asked what she thought of Baghdadi's death, one woman dressed in the black niqab shrieked: 'The Islamic State is remaining! The Islamic State is remaining!'

Another, from Paris, seemed equally unfazed, telling Sky News: 'We believed in him so we came [to the caliphate] ... And here we are. Anyway he is dead. You know in Islam there is life after death. Another one will return.'

Asked whether the Islamic State would return, she replied: 'God willing.'  

Not far from al Hol many thousands of former ISIS fighters are held in cramped jails by the Kurds.   

Just days after the Turkish invasion, the Kurds said hundreds of ISIS brides and their children escaped from another camp in a town called Ain Issa near the border.

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Several other reports have emerged of IS-linked men escaping jails.

The al Hol camp was supposed to be a temporary solution after the collapse of Islamic State but there is no plan for what to do with the people. 

Inside the encampment, Kurdish security forces patrol between the tents, a gun slung over their shoulder.

Laundry hangs on clothing lines strung up between the canvas dwellings, while barefoot children play in the dirt.

In a special fenced-off section of the camp for foreigners, security is tight, with cameras surveying the movements of residents from its edges.

Mark Stone, of Sky News, reported: 'The place is the perfect incubator for the reformation of IS. Essentially the camp already represents a new mini caliphate.' 

In the foreign section the guard said there were around 10,000 people, though no accurate records exist.

Sky News met women and children from Australia, Finland, Russia, Bosnia, France, China and Uzbekistan.

IS declared a caliphate across large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, before Kurdish-led fighters declared their territorial defeat this spring.

But US President Donald Trump last month ordered the withdrawal of US troops who had been helping the Kurds fight remaining IS sleeper cells, leaving them exposed to a Turkish attack.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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