Post ISIS (1): Women in Hawl Camp dispose ISIS cloak, narrate event of murders

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – The lady in her fifties is trying to cover her face with a veil in front of the camera in her tent in the middle of Hawl Camp, east of Hasakah, northeast Syria, so that wives of the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) militants cannot recognize her, and through this she keeps herself and her children safe especially that six members of the family were killed at the hands of ISIS sleeper cells.  

The lady, who hails from the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and who did not reveal about her name, narrates killing incidents of the members of her family, threats, and murder attempts that she has witnessed in addition to the atrocities of the crimes that are carried out against those who oppose the ideology of ISIS. 

The Hawl Camp, which was first established in 1990s to house refugees fleeing the Iraq War, is located near the Syrian-Iraqi border on the southern outskirts of Hawl town in the Hasakah countryside. The Camp, is a house for about 15,650 families in total of 57,516 individuals including 8,049 Iraqi families and 5,153 Syrian ones.

Thousands of wives and children of ISIS militants of different nationalities, who came to Syria with an invitation for “Jihad” launched by ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, stay in a special section.

The camp has become a city with compact tents as a result of increasing numbers of residents following the elimination of the last stronghold of ISIS in Baghuoz village, in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the US-led Global Coalition in March 2019.

In the dangerous camp in the desert, the women are all dressed in black cloaks and veils.

Some women narrate stories out of ordinary on the deteriorating reality they are witnessing in light of the increasing murders against those who have disposed ISIS cloak and its extremist mentality.  

Most of the camp’s residents including Iraqi refugees, Syrian IDPs and even ISIS wives and children abstain from starting chats with media outlets for fear of becoming a target for ISIS sleeper cells. 

Meanwhile, those who talk to or stand with strangers, from outside the camp, are accused of being agents to the SDF and the US-led Global Coalition.

Additionally, employees of humanitarian organizations are facing the same threat and subjected to the same murders. 

A nurse in the Kurdish Red Crescent was killed, two days ago, by unknown persons believed to be affiliated with the sleeper cells of the ISIS in the camp. 

Merciless killing 

An Iraq woman has recently changed her residency within the camp after the killing of her husband with nine bullets months ago.

The incident took place at night when ISIS sleeper cells stormed her former tent in the fifth sector hitting her and killing her husband.

The woman came to the camp five year ago after she took her family out of the al-Susah village, in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, during a military campaign by the SDF pursuing ISIS on banks of the Euphrates River.

During the campaign, the SDF arrested her husband, who has been an ISIS militants, and three year later he was released and transferred to the camp, where his family resides, last summer. 

Three days after being released, six armed individuals stormed his tent and beat the woman and the man until he lost his life.

“They pulled my husband from the hair out of the tent, fired nine bullets at him, and they brutally continued to hit him even after he died. With the help of Allah, we managed to flee their brutality,” the woman said.  

The ISIS sleeper cells then killed the second wife of the her husband with three of her children and her brother-in-law. “They mercilessly kill everyone violates them.”

She noted that now she is no more supporting ISIS ideology and beliefs.

During 2021, 93 murders have been recorded in the camp with most of them carried out against Iraqi refugees. This is the highest toll to be recorded in one year since the establishment of the camp. 

ISIS sleeper cells in the camp, who are mostly of women, impose rules of the extremist ISIS and they issue killing rulings against violators, according to residents of the camp.

Successive killing attempts 

In her tent, which lacks all aspects of living and that hardly fits four people, the Iraqi refugee woman narrates with a tone of fear an incident that she witnessed two days ago in the middle of the market where ISIS agents pursued her. 

“While standing in front a shop in the market, a man bearing a silent pistol wanted to lure me to go to behind the shop in order to kill me,” she said.

“I ran away from the market and they followed me until I reached to the Kurdish Red Crescent center where members of the Internal Security Forces of North and East Syria (Asayish) were present so that I managed to flee.”

She elaborated narrating another incident saying, “Once, they sent a woman in order to tempt me with money in order to accompany her to her tent, but I refused because I knew her goal was to kill me there.” 

Agents of ISIS have become familiar, but fear bans residents and families of victims to disclose them, according to women in the Hawl Camp.

She justifies being subjected to ongoing killing attempts of being accused of dealing with apostates in a reference to the Asayish and SDF.  

She added that her family and she no longer can sleep at night for fear of storms and infiltration into their tent. So that she stays in the tent although she is the only breadwinner for her family.

“I have been at the tent without work for three days.”  

Bloodiest 2021 

Officials of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) said 2021 was the bloodiest in comparison to other years due to the increasing murders. 

Since elimination of ISIS in Baghouz, the camp witnessed about 165 murders of which 93 were carried out last year, co-chair of IDPs and Refugees Affairs of the AANES, Sheikhmos Ahmad, said.  

Ahmad referred to the remarkable increase in attacks by ISIS sleeper cells against Syrians and Iraqis, “Even children are not spared from the killing.”  

The alarming increase of murders sparks panic among many of turning the camp into an incubator for the extremists and the emergence of more extremist organization in light of the practices of ISIS “fanatic” wives through teaching their children radicalism. 

The camp is known as a “ticking time bomb” due to the presence of extremists of ISIS wives and children, and tens of thousands of their supporters in a camp sometimes described as “the most dangerous camp in the world.” 

In November 2021, international organizations topped by UN and European Commission warned against the danger of keeping ISIS wives in camps for longer period and the possibility of becoming bloodier than the terrorist ISIS in the future.

Murders in the Hawl Camp witness a constant increase although SDF supported by the US-led Global Coalition launch several campaigns to arrest ISIS sleeper cells and transfer the extremist militants to other sectors under heavy guard. 

The hike of murders comes within the framework of the regional intelligence support provided to the sleeper cells in the camp in order to reorganize the ranks of ISIS that will pose a threat not only on the region but also on the international community, according to Ahmad.

The ISIS sleeper cells follow several ways in killing residents in the camp either through sharp tools (knife, hammers or others) or through silent pistols. 

Consequently, the AANES demand that countries repatriate their citizens from the camp and call on international powers to provide support for establishing rehabilitation centers and help in tackling the security situation in the camp.

$50 reward    

In another tent in the first sector in the camp, another Iraqi woman in the forties, who hails from al-Anbar governorate, narrates her sufferings since she came to the camp, three years ago, following Baghouz battles. 

She noted that she moved to Syria after her husband kidnapped her children and joint ISIS ranks.

As her peers of women, who rejects the ISIS extremist mentality, she tries to disassociate herself from the “brutality of the clear goals of the ISIS.” 

A month ago, her husband, who was detained in a prison of the AANES, died of health complications of liver disease.

The woman, who veils her face for fear of revealing her identity, said she was threatened with killing several times by women because she did not comply with their demands to be recruited as an agent within the camp.

“Since I am alone and have no breadwinner, I worked in several humanitarian organizations inside the camp and women affiliated with ISIS have threatened me with killing in case I do not tell them what happens inside the organization I worked for,” she added. 

“So that I changed my phone number in order for them not to reach me and then I was forced to quit the work in response to decisions by the organization’s administration and security forces for the safety of my children and I.”  

The woman recalled a murder that occurred in the market, a while ago, saying, “They killed a man inside a shop after they released a circular of $50 reward for the person who manages to kill him. All of them follow the same method.”   

During her speech, she brought the memory of another episode when “A men and two women intercepted me and threatened me with killing if I did not cooperate with them.”  

“Following the incident, many women came into my tent threatening me with beheading and they sealed my tent with the organization seal which increased my fears so that I could not sleep,” she noted.

“We hate ISIS”

As a result of her fears for her children, the woman have not left her tent for over eight months except for necessary issues.

Moreover, her nine-year-old child is suffering from psychiatric disorders and goes out of the tent insanely following a murder he witnessed with his eyes while playing in front his tent.  

The woman pointed out that the organization killed many individuals of her clan because of their affiliation with the Iraqi forces, “We hate ISIS so much, even we are forced to wear the Islamic style because any events occurs threats our lives.”

On January 1, the security forces found the body of an unknown individual in the Hawl Camp shot with four bullets in the head by unknown attackers said to be ISIS agents, a security source told North Press.  

Two days earlier, the security forces found the body of a Syrian IDP in the fifth sector killed by a silent pistol.   

The Iraqi woman appeals to the Iraqi government to be taken out of the camp and repatriated to her country, “The Iraqi government concerned that we are still stuck to ISIS ideology, but we are not and we do not bear to stay here we got very tired.”  

Reporting by Dilsoz Youssef/Jindar Abdulqader