Turkish-run ISIS centers in Syria, Turkey pose worldwide threats

By Lamar Arkandi

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – There have been reports about the emergence of religious schools, centers and training camps for children of jihadist militants, including foreigners, affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Turkey.

These schools and camps provide religious and military lessons, and dozens of these children have been smuggled from the Hawl camp northeast Syria towards Turkish occupied areas in Hasakah, Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), and Tel Abyad northeast Syria.

The Turkish online newspaper Kısa Dalga has revealed the existence of a clandestine center dedicated to ISIS children. This center is situated within a five-story building that functions as a library in the capital city of Ankara.

On the ground floor of the building, the children receive indoctrination in the extremist ideologies. Alarmingly, the Turkish government is aware of the activities taking place within this center, which actively promotes ISIS’s ideology and beliefs.

According to Kısa Dalga the library is located in the Hussein Ghazi area, specifically at building number 47 on 1131 Street in the Başpınar neighborhood, where eyewitnesses residing in the vicinity of the library have reported observing the daily transportation of children, aged between six and 16 years old, to the building in small private vehicles. The building itself is heavily concealed with thick curtains and is referred to as the Rabat Center, (meaning stronghold of victory).

The newspaper further added that the eyewitnesses have noticed these children entering and leaving the building for approximately six months, including Turkish children with jihadist inclinations.

It further reveals that families of ISIS militants reside in various neighborhoods of Ankara, namely Ornek, Mahalla Si, Tandaj, Pursaklar, Hussein Ghazi, and Karaburçak, where they enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement. Additionally, it is known that many of these individuals have participated in fighting in Syria.

Centers at SNA-held areas

After Turkish occupation of parts of Syrian Territories, same centers and schools have proliferated in the Afrin region, as well as in areas such as Sere Kaniye, Tel Abyad, Idlib, Jarablus, and Azaz, according to Mustafa Abdi, the head of the Documentation Violations Center in Northern Syria VDC-NSY.

He revealed that thousands of children participate in graduation ceremonies for Quran memorization.

Abdi told North Press that entities associated with Salafi-jihadist organizations, whether it is al-Qaeda, ISIS, or other extremist groups, oversee the process of mentally preparing children and indoctrinating them through teaching curricula that serve their interests.

Abdi accused Turkey of being the primary sponsor of these jihadist centers and promoting them in its institutions and news agencies like Anadolu Agency. He also mentioned Qatar’s role in funding these schools and centers with weapons and money.

Turkey launched three large-scale operations against northern and northeastern regions in Syria. The first was the so-called “Euphrates Shield” operation in 2016 where it occupied Jarablus and al-Bab, the second was dubbed “Olive Branch” operation in 2018 where it occupied Afrin region, and the third was named “Peace Spring” in 2019 which resulted in the occupation of the two cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad with their countryside.


Abdi believes that the phenomenon of “cubs of the caliphate” is still prevalent in Turkish-occupied areas in Syria, as well as within Turkey itself. These children are viewed as highly desirable recruits for jihadist organizations.

He said that the number of these children is significant and continues to systematically and deliberately grow. There is extensive media promotion of their activities. Schools in these areas entice children to join their ranks by offering gifts such as bicycles, books, money, and relief supplies, with the aim of recruiting more followers.

Abdi heightened that these schools deprive their students of a formal education by keeping them enrolled and under the influence of extremist ideologies.

Issam Sabri, a researcher specializing in extremist groups, has reported that Pakistani and Afghan organizations have established schools in Afrin, particularly in Yazidi villages, as well as in Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad. The purpose of these schools is to indoctrinate children before transferring them to Turkey for military training, according to Sabri.

He also revealed that the Turkish Religious Foundation and the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Tel Abyad, specifically in the town of Suluk, south of the city of Tel Abyad, are involved in managing these schools and centers. They play a role in supporting religious institutions with extremist orientations, both in Syria and Turkey.

Humanitarian Relief Foundation, IHH

Sabri raised concerns about Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which is particularly active in the northern regions of Aleppo, Sere Kaniye, and Tel Abyad.

According to Sabri, reliable information and journalistic reports confirm the foundation’s involvement in the transfer of women and children affiliated with ISIS from camps in northeastern Syria. Additionally, the IHH has been implicated in arms shipments from Bulgaria to Syria in 2013, destined for the al-Nusra Front.

Sabri highlighted that the IHH has used its humanitarian activities as a cover to support or engage in questionable operations. He also mentioned the organization’s connections to extremist groups and its activities promoting a specific agenda under the guise of Islam and humanitarian work. Furthermore, Sabri explained that the IHH is involved in intelligence operations and oversees money transfers for ISIS women in the Hawl and Roj camps in northeast Syria, as revealed by investigations conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in collaboration with ISIS cells within the camps.

These funds are used to smuggle children and foreign women affiliated with ISIS, primarily from the camps, to train them and facilitate their passage to European countries for the purpose of carrying out terrorist operations against their home governments, added Sabri.

Earlier, the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish intelligence successfully smuggled a Moldovan citizen and her four children from Hawl, transporting them to Turkey.

Internal security investigations, including testimonies from a Chechen woman, have corroborated the involvement of the IHH foundation in the smuggling of numerous children and wives of ISIS from the northern Syrian camps.

Fanar al-Gaeit, Deputy Co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), commented on Turkey’s role in this issue, stating, “The security forces of the AANES have documented a jihadist training center for ISIS in the town of Bulbul in Afrin countryside near the Turkish base there.”

He further added that ISIS militants, who attacked the al-Sinaa prison in Syria’s Hasakah where ISIS militants are detained, confirmed the presence of training centers, indicating significant cooperation between ISIS and Turkey.

Siyamand Ali, the Director of the Media Center of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), confirmed during an interview with North Press that they discovered training centers for children within the Hawl camp during the three security campaigns conducted by the security forces against ISIS cells within the camp.

Ali pointed out that children, especially during the night, were subjected to intense training by the group’s cells, including indoctrination with extremist ideologies and combat exercises.

He added, “We found books and folders containing the ideology and Sharia law of ISIS, written in various languages, including Turkish. Additionally, we uncovered different types of weapons inside distant tents equipped with tunnels, which served as dedicated camps for training children.”

Roj and Hawl camps in northeast Syria, run by the SDF and the AANES, house around 57,300 ISIS-linked individuals, including nearly 10,000 foreigners.

Tens of thousands of women and children of ISIS families from about 60 countries are still in these two camps.

European concerns

Dr. Mustafa Amin, a specialist researcher in terrorism affairs, extensively discussed the potential consequences of establishing centers and schools for ISIS children in Turkey and Syria, as well as the countries from which these children originated.

He emphasized the grave danger that these centers pose to Turkey itself, highlighting the complex challenge Ankara faces in simultaneously acknowledging or denying this issue. Given Turkey’s role as a haven for extremist jihadist groups, which either stem from or are remnants of the Syrian war, the Western society cannot overlook this matter.

Moreover, Amin underscored that Turkey has become a refuge for both the renegade fighters from this war and the families of ISIS who infiltrated Syria through its borders.

This situation has transformed the country into a fertile ground for the resurgence of ISIS and the revival of its territorial influence. Amin also pointed out that Europe is aware of the risks associated with these centers, which house ISIS families in the camps of northern Syria, he noted.

However, concrete steps to address this issue and eliminate the threat have not been taken yet. Western nations primarily rely on preemptive strategies, such as targeting high-ranking ISIS leaders, according to Amin.

In line with Amin’s concerns, al-Gaeit discussed the repatriation of foreign nationals by their respective countries. Despite the existing stagnation surrounding this matter, there is a growing inclination to repatriate foreign nationals from the Hawl and Roj camps in Syria. This proactive action is motivated by the fear that these individuals may develop into future jihadists.