More than 70 people have been arrested in the Syrian refugee camp al-Hol this week. Thousands of Kurdish soldiers, who control the camp, are engaged in a large-scale security operation. The goal is to arrest sympathizers of terror group Islamic State.
“ The residents follow strict Islamic legislation and have their own police. It is mainly women who convey extremist thought to their children,” says Kino Gabriel, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Armed Forces, the military who lead the operation. “If this is not handled properly, the next generation of jihadists will be created here.”
Al Hol is located in the northeast of Syria. It is estimated that more than 60,000 people are staying in the crowded tent camp, especially women and children. Among them are many supporters of terror group Islamic State. The situation in the camp is deteriorating rapidly. Since the beginning of this year, at least 40 people have been murdered, including children and a medical worker.
Dozens of European Syria-goers stay in the camp. Peter Maurer head of the International Red Cross is very concerned. “I am shocked by the circumstances. It is scandalous that the international community is allowing a camp like this to continue,” he said during a visit to al-Hol last week.
“No more Dutch women”
For a long time Dutch women and children stayed in the camp, but they turned out to have left. “It seems that at the moment there are no more Dutch women at all”, says lawyer André Seebregts. “Some of the women have been transferred to another camp, some have run away and some have returned to the Netherlands.”
Seebregts assists 23 women who have travelled to Syria. He cant say anything about the women who escaped from the refugee camp. Presumably they fled to the province of Idlib, where they still have contact with the Islamic State.
Geting children back
Vladimir Voronkov, head of UN counter-terrorism, called on the international community to at least repatriate the children. They are in danger of further radicalising if they remain in Al-Hol, surrounded by IS-supporters and without any form of normal education or reasonable prospects for the future.
Seebregts also makes that call. “The children are nothing to blame and are in great danger. The only reason it does not happen now is political unwillingness, but it is certainly possible.” He refers to Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, countries that actively bring children back.
To relieve the pressure on the camp, Syrian and Iraqi families have recently been released. “We register the families who want to leave and check their background and family members,” says Mounir Mohammed who oversees the departure from the camp.