Iraq quietly building camp to hold families of ISIS fighters held in Syria: MP
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A lawmaker representing the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh claimed on Saturday that the government was in the process of building a large new displacement camp to house Iraqi families of accused members of the Islamic State currently held at Syria’s sprawling and notorious al-Hol Camp.
“The Federal Government… is establishing a camp to receive the displaced from the Syrian al-Hol Camp, which number 31,400, most of whom are ISIS families,” Shirwan al-Dobardani said in a statement. "The camp consists of 4,000 tents and the completion rate has exceeded 50 percent, in addition to building a security audit office in [the nearby] Rabia sub-district.”
In July, Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) denied an earlier public claim by Dobardani that Iraq was then in the early stages of preparing to transfer large numbers of the families to new displacement camps in areas south of Mosul, the provincial capital.
“Any news of transferring ISIS families from Syria to camps in Nineveh province is false and baseless assumptions,” said Deputy Minister Jassim al-Attiya in a statement
The announcement responds to a social media post made the day before by Sherwan al-Duberdani, a member of the Iraqi parliament from Nineveh, and last week's report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) that documented preparations being made to transfer 32,000 people, most of them women and children, from Syria to Iraq.
The new facility would reportedly be established in the al-Amla area of Nineveh’s al-Zummar sub-district. The relocation process would be concluded within three months, according to the lawmaker. One displacement camp already exists in al-Amla and the new facility is said to be nearby.
“The choice of this region is a major problem that hinders the return of the displaced and is also a security threat to Nineveh province in particular, and Iraq in general and especially at this time,” the lawmaker claimed.
He added further that the central government had begun working on the camp without informing local authorities in Nineveh, saying, “The Nineveh government and its representatives [in the Iraqi parliament] should take a serious stand on this matter.”
Al-Hol Camp was built to house 40,000 individuals, but in late 2019 it held over 68,000 people—94 percent being women and children. The camp witnessed a sharp increase in numbers of residents as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive to defeat the Islamic State in its last bastion of Baghouz, which ended in March 2019.
Editing by John J. Catherine