Turkish relief foundation helps ISIS women escape Syria’s Hawl Camp

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) — With the help of a Turkish relief organization, attempts by the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) women to escape Hawl Camp, east of Hasakah, still taking place though security service in the camp has succeeded thwarting many of them.

Those women pay thousands of dollars with the aim of reaching the areas held by Turkey and its affiliated Syrian armed opposition factions, also known as the Syrian National Army (SNA).

In May, seven foreign women, two Moroccans and five Russians, in addition to 14 children managed to escape the camp. However, Internal Security Forces of North and East Syria (Asayish) and units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) succeeded in thwarting the attempt and caught them before reaching their destinations.

The Moroccan women were caught in Manbij western countryside on June 4, whereas the other women were caught with their children in Hasakah countryside in mid-May.

According to what these women told North Press, the Moroccan women were heading to Jarablus whilst the Russians were heading to Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain). 

Hawl Camp, 45 km east of the city of Hasakah, is a house for 56,775 people, the majority of them are Iraqis. It also houses thousands of internally displaced Syrians, most of whom came from the areas west of the Euphrates which are under the control of the Syrian government and the Iranian-backed militias.

The wives and children of foreign dead and detainees ISIS members live in a special sector in the camp.

Turkish IHH relief organization

The 17-year-old Fatima al-Zahraa Abdulhafiz said that she managed to flee the camp in mid-May via a waste collection vehicle after coordinating with one of her Moroccan friends in Idlib, which is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front).

She said that “at first, it [IHH Turkish foundation] helped Turkish women, but after that it helped all women,” Arabs and non-Arabs as well.

IHH is a conservative Turkish relief Non-Governmental Organization established in 1992 and officially registered in Istanbul in 1995.

Abdulhafiz, who hails from the Moroccan city of Tangier, claimed that her Moroccan friend in Idlib was the one who collected the $18,000 required fro her to be smuggled from the camp.

The girl, who entered Syria with her family nine years ago through Turkey, believed that the situation there in Turkey is better, and that she can stay and settle there where she has relatives.

They were scheduled to be transferred from the camp to Manbij then Jarablus and then Turkey. 

Escape attempts are taking place at a time where countries are still refusing to repatriate their nationals from the camps and prisons run by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The AANES was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqah, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated ISIS militarily.

I want to return to my country

Bess Khanum Alkbirr, 30, a Russian refugee in the camp who calls herself Aisha Abdulrahman, said that she had paid $15,000 to get out of the camp.

Alkbir, who hails from Dagestan in Russia, said that she had moved between several villages in Hasakah countryside after she escaped the camp, as the plan was to get her to Sere Kaniye.

She told North Press that her mother had coordinated with the smuggler, who was in Turkey, to get her out of the camp.

After her potential arrival to Sere kaniye, she was scheduled to leave to Turkey and from there to her country.

Alkbir is a mother of two children, one of whom is from her husband Islam Alexander whom she came with to Syria, and the other is from her Ukrainian husband, whom she married after Islam was killed in Syria.

Just like the other women, the Dagestani woman entered Syria through Turkey. At first, she settled in the city of Raqqa, to move later to al-Mayadin, and then to Baghuz in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor.

List of names

On Jan. 25 2021, the SDF arrested a smuggler, who worked on smuggling ISIS women from the Hawl Camp, in the town of Tel Hamees near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

In the same month, the Asayish caught dozens of women who were trying to escape the camp with their children by hiding in water trucks.

In July 2020, video footage obtained by North Press showed drivers of water trucks, belonged to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), trying to smuggle ISIS families from the camp.

The Moroccan Iman Sara Muhammad Mahrir, 25, said that she did not know if the IHH foundation was the one who paid $30,000 in exchange for escaping her and her child from the camp, or if it was a private benefactor.

Mahrir, who came to Syria with her husband in 2013, said that the IHH is making a list of names for those who want to leave. Then, the organization takes out those who were approved by it.

The Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation “for the first two years, it helped Turkish women to escape from the camp.”

Some were transported to Darkush camp in Idlib countryside, and then, if they wanted, to Turkey, Mahrir noted.

After that, the organization started to help Russian and Arab women as well to escape the camp, she stressed.

Reporting by Jindar Abdulqader