International concern about Cubs of the Caliphate amid Syria’s Hasakah events

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – On Wednesday, the UN children’s agency UNICEF voiced concern over reports of the death of children in the al-Sina’a prison in Guweiran neighborhood in Hasakah city, northeastern Syria. 

In a statement released by Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said all parties to the conflict in Syria should bear responsibilities to spare civilians and those who do not carry arms, and they should give priority to safety of all the children inside the Guweiran prison.  

“The children stranded inside the prison might be enforced to do an active role in the ongoing clashes between ISIS detainees and the security forces,” Fore said.  

Human Shields   

The issue of the detained children (Cubs of the Caliphate)  came to the front days after the Islamic State (ISIS) cells attacked the prison and ISIS detainees held the children as human shields. 

The attacks, January 20, triggered clashes as ISIS cells caused three explosions in an attempt to break their fellow members out from the prison. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said ISIS inmates engaged in a riot inside the prison and held the children “Cubs of the Caliphate” as human shields during the ongoing clashes. The SDF fighters are battling ISIS members to prevent them advance and retake control of the prison. 

For the seventh day, the SDF has besieged the prion which holds thousands of ISIS inmates in tandem with combing operation in Guweiran neighborhood searching for three members of ISIS cells who were involved on the attack on the prison.

On January 23, the SDF said ISIS bears full responsibility for any harm that could inflict the Cubs of the Caliphate.

The SDF added that the major obstacle impedes the advance of the SDF forces is that the terrorists are using Cubs of the Caliphate,700 minors linked with ISIS, as human shields.  

The SDF pointed that the children were in special prison dormitories separated from ISIS adult inmates and the objective was to rehabilitate those children from extremist ideologies.


The SDF appealed to the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene to spare the children and prevent the use of them in military operations by ISIS as well as to surrender the children to the related security forces for their safety.

In the same context, the SDF said western countries absolve themselves from the issue of repatriation citizens who joined ISIS in Syria and put them on trial in their own home countries or disregard providing support for the establishment of an international court to prosecute ISIS members.  

Henrietta H. Fore stressed the necessity that all parties to the conflict in northeast Syrian have to maintain the physical and well-being of all the children held in captivity.

The parties to the conflict have to adopt measures to regain calm in the detention center within the suitable use of force and during conflicts. All have to take potential precautions and adhere to principles of prejudice and proportion.  

The first step to achieve this is to secure a safe corridor for the human rights workers among others to get to the children and evacuate them from the detention center with the aim to give the urgent and necessary care and protection they need.

Statistic and procedures  

The Cubs of the Caliphate were scheduled to be transferred from the prison following the construction of several rehabilitation centers like Houri center in order to rehabilitate them. But, shortage of support provided to northeast Syria prevents construction of such centers, according to former statements of officials in northeast Syria.  

Houri center, established four years ago in Tel Ma’rouf area in Qamishli countryside, is the first center designated for the rehabilitation of ISIS members’ children from extremist ideologies and reintegrate them into civil societies. The center accommodates children aged 12-18 years old.

Similarly, Halat center situated in Hasakah city and gives care for, and rehabilitation of, ISIS members’ children whose mothers are held in prisons run by the SDF. The center houses 55 children from different western and Arab countries [except Syrians and Iraqis] aged 2-12 years old. During the day, the children are brought to Halat center but in the evening they are taken back to their detained mothers. 

The children’s mothers, mostly foreigners, are kept in a special women prison supervised by the SDF, which is backed by the Global Coalition. The women are held there for criminal charges and attempts of escape from Hawl Camp in the east of Hasakah.    

The majority part of ISIS members’ children live with their mothers in Hawl Camp and Roj Camp which is near Derik in northeast Syria.  

Hawl Camp shelters 56,150 individuals from 15,250 families, including 2,423 families of ISIS members killed or captured in battlefields from about 60 countries.   

Roj Camp houses 806 families, with 2,800 individuals, including Arabs and western women and children who are member families of ISIS fighters. 

Reporting by Fansa Temmo