AIN ISSA, Syria (Kurdistan24) – The US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and their civilian council released dozens of IS prisoners on Sunday under an amnesty decree.
The amnesty coincided with the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, and at the request of the Raqqa Civilian Council, security forces in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) and northern Syria released 83 prisoners belonging to IS.
Speaking to Kurdistan24, Abdulsalam Hamsorik, a member of the Raqqa Civilian Council, said the prisoners were formerly recruited by the militant group in Raqqa.
“We consider them victims of [IS] who were deceived by the extremist group’s media,” he said.
“We have to give them a chance to improve their situation and begin a new life,” he added.
According to the Raqqa Council, the released prisoners had already surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and they did not commit serious crimes.
The Council made clear the prisoners were pardoned because they had no “blood on their hands” and held no senior posts with IS.
One of the prisoners told Kurdistan24 he surrendered to the SDF because he realized he was doing wrong by serving IS.
“I wish to return to my home and family,” he said.
Other prisoners explained they joined IS to save their lives and those of their families.
This move by the SDF aims to show the international community they are peace-seeking forces.
It may also be a small step toward easing tensions that run deep in Raqqa after three years of ruthless IS occupation, followed by war.
During the prisoners’ release, sweets were handed out on trays, in what officials of the SDF and their Council hoped would be the start of a new chapter in the men’s lives.
Speeches were given by officials of the SDF, Raqqa Council, and the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) at the event followed by applause from all sides.
The released men walked past Council members and shook their hands, before tasting freedom and reuniting with their families.
The SDF had already freed dozens of IS members in Manbij a few months ago.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Redwan Bezar, a Kurdistan24 correspondent embedded with the SDF in Raqqa)