ISIS kills 15 residents of Syria’s sprawling al-Hol displacement camp in March: SDF

A total of 15 residents of northern Syria's al-Hol displacement camp were reported killed in March. {Photo: Sky News via SDF)
A total of 15 residents of northern Syria's al-Hol displacement camp were reported killed in March. {Photo: Sky News via SDF)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday announced that 15 residents of the notorious al-Hol displacement camp the group runs in northeastern Syria were killed in the month of March, including three women.

“These crimes threaten the lives of innocent refugees who bear the consequences of this toxic ideology,” the SDF's Coordination and Military Operations Center wrote in a Twitter post.

Last week, the Kurdish-led forces arrested 10 people in a new operation in al-Hol, which has seen an uptick in violence over the past few months, as “a step to control the security of the camp” where dozens of people have been killed since January. 

Read More: SDF arrests 10 ISIS suspects in Syria’s al-Hol camp

The operation was a response to the recent killing of two Iraqi refugees.

Since January, security has markedly deteriorated in al-Hol, the largest camp in Syria for refugees and internally displaced people.

On Jan. 8, a member of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) was killed during a reported clash with an Islamic State cell within the camp. Earlier this month, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member was killed and three others injured, forcing the charity to suspend services at the sprawling facility.

According to the United Nations, there are about 62,000 people still in the camp, including tens of thousands of women affiliated to Islamic State, along with their children.

The majority of al-Hol’s residents are Iraqis and Syrians, but the camp also includes a large number of foreign families thought to be tied to the Islamic State.

As a result of the vast numbers, it has been difficult for guards to prevent repeated violent incidents, including multiple murders. 

Local authorities decided in early October to expedite the departure of displaced Syrian families from al-Hol as part of a new program, but the Iraqi government has so far refused to repatriate most Iraqis living in the camp.

Last week, the Kurdish-led civilian Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) again called on the international community to continue repatriation efforts for children and their mothers from al-Hol, deeming current efforts to do so “insufficient.”

It furthermore reiterated the need for international expertise in setting up a court to try Islamic State suspects.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said that countries with nationals held in northeast Syria should answer repeated appeals “by the Autonomous Administration to help them provide detainees with due process, including the right to contest the legality and necessity of their detention before a judge.”

Badran Chia Kurd, the Autonomous Administration’s deputy co-chair, told HRW that holding the foreigners “is a huge burden” for the cash-strapped administration.

“The international community, in particular the countries who have citizens in the camps and prisons, are not assuming their responsibility. This issue, if not solved, will not only affect us, but the entire world.”

According to HRW, so far 25 countries are known to have repatriated any nationals from northeast Syria and most have brought home or helped return only a token few, primarily orphans or young children, in some cases without their mothers.

Also this week the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said its Grand Chamber will examine two complaints against France for not repatriating two French women held in a camp in Syria with their children.

Their parents were unsuccessful in their applications in French courts to return their daughters and grandchildren.

The case could have future ramifications for other European Islamic State families stuck in Syria.

Editing by John J. Catherine