ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria recently announced the release of 283 prisoners who were members of the Islamic State but “not involved” in crimes.
During a press conference in Ain al-Issa on Saturday, DAA co-chair Abdul Hamid al-Muhabash said the goal was to reintegrate the released prisoners into society, Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported.
According to Muhabash, the DAA treats prisoners with “love and tolerance,” and provides them employment opportunities so they can “return to their normal situation in the society.”
He also said there are plans to release more prisoners in the future who fit the criteria in areas such as Jazeera, the Euphrates region, Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, and Deir al-Zor.
Zinar, a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) military relations office, told Kurdistan 24 the 283 Islamic State prisoners who were released “proved not to be involved in any armed activities.”
“Many were poor, only workers and employees,” he added.
Zinar noted that the release was part of reconciliation attempts between local officials and at the request of tribal figures in coordination with the self-administration.
“The tribal leaders reached out to the SDF and SDC [Syrian Democratic Council] to release them, and they responded positively,” Abdullah al-Muhdi, the spokesperson of the Tribal Reconciliation Council in Tabqa and its countryside, stated.
“The reason they released those people is that they were poor people,” Muhdi explained.
“For those people, life was tough, so they joined ISIS,” he added. “They had to feed their families, so we released them. It’s not about ideology.”
This is not the first time prisoners have been released after coordination between the tribes and local self-administration.
Mohammed Ali, a defense official in the Tabqa administration, said the SDF are trying to reconcile with members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Islamic State, or the Syrian government held in SDF prisons.
In October 2017, for instance, the SDF released 41 fighters that were part of the Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield operation.
“We are not like the regime who kill someone if they are FSA or ISIS,” Ali highlighted.
“We try to educate them. It doesn’t matter if it’s Euphrates Shield, regime, or ISIS, we give them a chance, as long as they have no blood on their hands,” he added.
However, Ali said those who are guilty of committing crimes would be tried at civilian or military courts.
Foreign Islamic State fighters, meanwhile, are not released, nor put on trial. The SDF and local administration have called on foreign countries to take back their citizens.
Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, said the release of prisoners shows that the Kurdish-led forces are leading by example.
“The SDF is trying to build the foundation for a stable future in northern and eastern Syria,” he told Kurdistan 24.
“By following this policy, the SDF can show that it is willing to listen to the concerns of the local population, while potentially expanding its network of supporters within the local population. This is Stabilization 101.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany