According to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a new decision has been made by the group’s leadership council to allow the return of thousands of Syrians in al-Hol camp, including families of ISIS militants to their homelands. On October 9, 2020, Ilham Ahmed, co-president of the executive committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), in a video message has said: An evacuation order for al-Hol camp will be issued soon, and the organization will not accept responsibility for those who wish to remain in the camp.
The importance to announce such a decision at this time can be evaluated closely given that the field developments in the Syrian crisis are going through a state of inactivity and stagnation. Since 2011, the Syrian Kurds have been trying to consolidate their position in the developments in order to gain some kind of legal and political guarantee to play a role in determining Syria’s future. With this in mind, the question now is that, what are the motivations of the Syrian Kurds to liberate, or in other words, evacuate the al-Hol refugee camp? On the other hand, another question arises that whether it is only the Kurds who have made the decision to act upon such an important issue or whether the role of other actors in the region should also be considered whom are planning upon their deeds behind closed doors.
Camp of Violence and Terror
Al-Hol camp is located 40 kilometers east of Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah. Around 65,000 people, containing ISIS families, including their women and children, as well as thousands of foreign militant families from more than 50 countries, live in the camp, according to figures provided by the United Nations Human Rights Watch (HRW). This camp is the largest shelter for families or displaced persons during the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria. It is also worth noting that the camp is under tight security and is managed by the Syrian Kurds under the supervision of the United States.
According to the latest figures, the majority of the camp is made up of Iraqis, and the rest are thousands of families of ISIS soldiers originating from more than 50 countries. Meanwhile, 24,300 people in the camp consist of Syrian nationals who have either been displaced or detained during clashes with ISIS. Regarding the importance of this camp, it should be noted that, firstly, the largest gathering place and storage of members affiliated with the ISIS terrorist group is al-Hol camp, secondly, a large majority of the people in the camp are made up of children who in the future might have the potential to convert to Takfiri groups, and thirdly, the expulsion of more than 64,000 people from al-Hol camp could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe at a domestic level in Syria, generating dangerous consequences for the entire region.
The Advantage Card of Syrian Kurds: The Use of Pressure
At a preliminary level, it should be noted that in recent years the Syrian Kurds have consistently used the discussion of ISIS prisoners as a tool and leverage to exert pressure on other countries. The Syrian Kurds, who have not always been recognized by the Syrian internal forces and regional actors which have also not been invited to the Syrian peace talks, intend to use the issue of ISIS prisoners and detainees to establish their position in the Syrian equation. In the past, as the Turkish military raided the east of the Euphrates, the Syrian Kurds made it clear that they intend to release ISIS prisoners. At that time, their main goal was to persuade the United States and other international actors to counter the attacks of the Turkish army and its mercenaries. At this juncture, it seems that once again, the Syrian Kurds intend to use the prisoner debate as a means of pressure on the European countries, Turkey, Syria, and even the Iraqi government in order to gain concessions from it.
Americas New Intention Concerning the Region
On the other hand, in addition to the determination of the Kurds, it is extremely important to pay attention to the United States of America’s hidden intentions in evacuating al-Hol camp. Over the past decades, we have seen White House strategists use radical and extremist groups in order to achieve their objectives. In the current situation, it seems that the Americans intend to pave the way for re-creating crises in the region by plotting to evacuate al-Hol camp through the Kurds. Washington intends to pave the way for the emergence of a new radical and extremist group that is in line with its plans to continue the crisis in Syria, Iraq and even Lebanon. Large-scale economic sanctions imposed against Syria, known as the Caesar Act, is now one of the Syrian regime’s biggest challenges in rebuilding war-torn areas, ensuring the return of refugees and ending the country’s prolonged crisis.
On the other hand, putting pressure on European countries to further align with US policies in the region could be another factor in the decision to release ISIS captives and refugees in the hands of the Syrian Kurds. According to published information, a large number of foreigners in the camp are European fighters, whom European countries refuse to accept as their citizens.