Islamic State ‘widows’ in deadly clash with guards at Syria’s notorious al-Hol camp
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A widow of an Islamic State fighter died and several others were wounded in an armed clash with women security guards from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at Al-Hol camp in the northeast Syrian province of Hasaka on Monday. About 50 others were detained as a result of the clash, according to local sources.
“A group of women of the Islamic State Organization inside the camp who were secretly working as Hisba Islamic Morality Police, tried to whip a woman,” reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Monday.
Security guard (Asayesh) intervention in the attempted whipping led to an armed clash between both sides, SOHR added, in which the Islamic State-affiliated women used light weaponry against the camp guards.
Hisba refers to the Islamic State’s religious police, who took it as their duty to punish violators of their interpretation of Sharia (Islamic) law from the Koran and Hadiths during the Islamic State’s reign in Syria between 2014 and 2019.
“Two women from the Organization’s families attempted to assassinate an Iraqi refugee, by stabbing him in the abdomen … which seriously injured him,” the UK-based watchdog also said of Monday’s violence.
SDF-affiliated Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported that one Islamic State woman was killed and seven others injured in the clashes, adding that the subsequent Asayesh crackdown led to the arrest of at least 50 Islamic State-affiliated women.
The incident gives weight to warnings by the Kurdish-led SDF and international organisations that the camp has become an incubator for Islamic State ideology, at a time when group members are known to be reorganizing in parts of both Syria and Iraq.
It also amplifies the SDF’s concerns that it does not possess the manpower or resources to indefinitely hold thousands of Islamic State members at the camp. The Kurdish-led forces have called repeatedly for international assistance to try suspected fighters, while they and US officials have implored foreign governments to repatriate their nationals – a call to which few have responded.
The group additionally faces pressure from Turkey, which has threatened incursions into SDF-controlled territory outside of its joint operation agreement with the US. Kurdish leaders in northeast Syria have said military pressure from Turkey would force them to put counter-Islamic State efforts on the backburner in order to counter a Turkish threat.
Unnamed sources told pro-SDF North Press Agency (NPA) that 40 Islamic State women were detained after the skirmish. The NPA dedeucted based on videos of the incident that the attackers were non-Syrians.
The notorious al-Hol camp is home to about 70,000 people, including more than 11,000 family members of Islamic State militants from overseas.
Islamic State fighters, backed and funded by Saudi Arabia, swept through and then controlled swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory from 2014. The group was territorially defeated in Iraq in December 2017, and by the SDF in Syria in March 2019.