"DAESH prisoners exist, they are people and a solution is needed"
"Currently, a significant number of DAESH families remain in our camps. They are a great danger for both now and for the future."
Zozan Allush, co-chair of the Humanitarian Affair Council of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, said that developing a solution for the wives and children of DAESH mercenaries is part of the fight against DAESH.
Addressing international forces, Allush warned that if measures were not taken, future terrorist organizations could be established through these children.
Zozan Allush said that the number of DAESH families in their areas has greatly increased and added: “At present we have no resources to ensure security, meeting of their daily needs, educate them and rehabilitate them.”
Wives and children of DAESH mercenaries who have surrendered or have been captured for the past 3 years, are also being kept in special sections of Ayn Isa, Roj and Hol camps within the territory of the Democratic Autonomous Administration.
Following the Baghouz Initiative, the overall number of refugees in Hol Camp has reached 64,114. Of these, over 6,000 are families and children of DAESH mercenaries.
In Ayn Isa camp there are about 3,000 women and children of Dash mercenaries, while in Roj Camp there are around 2,000 women and children.
Zozan Allush spoke thoroughly to ANF about this delicate and important issue.
Since when are the families of DAESH mercenaries coming to the areas of Democratic Autonomous Administration or are they captured and brought to the camps?
The arrival of the DAESH families to our territories began with the Manbij Initiative. Then it was the odd family coming. But during the Raqqa Initiative, a greater number of DAESH families reached our camps.
Currently, DAESH women are mainly settled in Roj camp, although some are in the camps of Hol and Ayn Isa. In Manbij there were not many women, and we transferred them to Ayn Isa camp.
In the last period, during the Baghouz Initiative the families of DAESH mercenaries have been brought to Hol camp.
What kind of work do you do with the spouses and children of DAESH mercenaries? How do you detect women who are actively involved in DAESH crimes and those who are not?
The approach of our Democratic Autonomous Administration to women is somewhat different. DAESH families coming to our camps are also different. Some of them came to Syria in areas dominated by DAESH for their husbands, some for their children, some because they believed in DAESH. Some have killed people, participated in massacres. Of course, we try to separate and work differently with any category.
But when we first capture them, we approach them as human beings, we communicate with them, and we settle them in the camps. Of course, a research is being done about them. Some of them tell us, if they were committing crimes for DAESH, what they have done. We know the names of some of the people who committed crimes even before they arrived. But it is our duty to send these families to existing camps after they arrived.
How healthy is it to keep these people in normal refugee camps?
We don't have many alternatives. There are special sections in these camps.
During the Raqqa Operation process we had initially settled them with other refugees. But we saw that this caused a lot of problems. Because of the problems, we separated the spouses and children of DAESH and made special sections in Ayn Isa, Hol and Roj camps for them.
What kind of life is in these camps now?
In fact, there are many problems in the camps where the wives of DAESH mercenaries are staying. Some of them are not only believing in the idea of DAESH, but they are also working for it.
Let me give you an example: In Ayn Isa we launched an education program for these women. Some women have now begun to take off their veil, or open up a bit. They allow their children to go to school and allow camp workers to enter their tents comfortably. Then a woman called Daye Ahmet Misiri arrived. All the other women began to put back their veil and take their children away from school.
Some of them now are also affecting those who want to break away from this idea and start a new life. In some camps, such women also use violence against other women. For example, a woman named Nura, whom we sent to her family, was beaten by these women.
Do you take any action on that? For instance, isn't it necessary to separate a woman who put such pressure on other women and jail her?
There are sanctions for this type of situations. They are held accountable for various crimes.
But when such events occur, women are not always reporting them because of fear. Because they're scared. But then we hear what happened from others. Such events are not very frequent. We can't say that all the women there are putting pressure on the others. Now there are many women who want to change, to get rid of the dirty thought and life of DAESH and start a normal social life.
Those women who are still very attached to the idea of DAESH in the camps, carry out violent practices against other women in the same section, especially at night.
Because we don't have the means to provide power for the whole camp. We are experiencing a serious problem on this issue. The camps I have mentioned are not small camps, but big camps with thousands of tents.
We actually need electricity in order to exercise more control during the night, but this requires a lot of material. In fact, at present we don't have that much strength.
But these events are often a one off, they not very common. When we realize that such a situation has occurred, or when we hear about it, we remove the women responsible from that camp and take them to the prison.
However if we were to send all of these women to prison from the beginning, we would not actually have provided a solution. We don't have a prison for women. We give them an opportunity by sending them to a normal camp, so that they can live a normal life. But those who insist on the DAESH idea and approach are ultimately imprisoned.
It is true though, that we are experiencing serious difficulties in finding solutions for women who are threatened by the presence in the camps of DAESH families, who are involved in crime, who continue to sponsor the DAESH mentality. Many times, we send such women out of the camp and send them to special sections in the prisons where men are located. But these are not prisons designed to house women.
However, there are many women within DAESH who honestly regret their involvement, there are those who did not really get involved and those who really want a real new life for their children. In fact, most children now want to return to their country to live and grow up in a normal way.
But yes, there are some of them who are really dangerous. Actually 2-3 of these women are enough to corrupt the whole camp. Because they don't actually have any of the features of women. They have completely moved away from their women's nature, they see it as their right to oppress others with violence and repression. When we get aware of such things, as I said, we take these women to prison, but after a while we have to put them back into the camps. For this reason, there is a need for a proper women's prison, and for this purpose, help from other countries is needed.
What kind of work do you have prepared for Syrian women who participated in DAESH or who have lived in DAESH territories?
Once the Syrians enter the camp, we start to investigate them. If they have not killed, if they have not committed serious crimes and have just lived in those areas, her family can come and take them out of the camp. But this investigation takes months.
If we establish that she hasn’t committed any crime we contact her family, if this is what she wants. There was Nura from Aleppo, she regretted what she had done and her parents wanted her back. We sent her to her parents because she wanted to go. Women who still were loyal to the ideas of DAESH in the camp had been putting serious pressure on her because she had repented and she had taken the veil off. So, Nura from Aleppo asked to be sent back to her parents, and so she was.
There are families who get to know that their daughters are with us. They come to us to pick up their children. If the girls want to go back to their families, we send them back, but if they don’t want, we keep them in the camps.
What kind of work are you carrying out with those women and children who were in DAESH but are not Syrian citizens? How do you deal with their country of origin?
First, there is an international work. Salibil Ahmer (Red Cross) is carrying out a work on them. They get the details of their names, family names and addresses. They contact their families.
As Democratic Autonomous Administration we involve the relevant committees of the Council on Foreign Relations are officially getting in touch with the states where each of this person come from. For example, if there are French people with us, the French government is contacted and we send them their names and details.
So far, the number of women and children who have been handed over to other states is very little.
The Americans received a family of 1 woman and 2 children. Sudan has taken 5-6 women and their children so far. They come to our Foreign Affairs in Qamishlo and take them. So far the Russians have taken some families. Indonesia took a significant number of women and their children. Belgium said they would take its women citizens but stated they would not take the children. We said that we cannot separate women and children, that they should take all of them, or that we will find another solution.
The French didn't want any of them. They said to us: “You can celebrate the trials and make them serve prison in your areas. The British stripped a person of his citizenship. He is currently in Roj Camp.
However, as a result of our negotiations, we have seen that no state is serious about this issue. They all say ‘do what you feel appropriate according to your own state’.
But it does not work like that. The reality is not this, they are your citizens, you have to take and judge them in your own country. How can we try and judge these people? They [the foreign governments] have not recognized our administration so far. So on this point we are discussing the alternative of an international court.
So, women and children who were in DAESH have been housed in camps in your areas for the past two years. The number of these people has greatly increased in the final stages of the Jazira Storm operation. Have you been able to run and implement projects for these women to change and start again?
As the geographical domination of DAESH comes to an end, a rehabilitation for these women and special schools for children are clearly required. We have a plan and strategy. And we are talking to the International Coalition forces about this plan and strategy.
This is a part of their work in the fight against DAESH. Today, when DAESH is almost over in Baxoz, we cannot say ‘DAESH has ended’. Okay, military combat or front war are ending. But the DAESH mentality is not over. Women and children in our camps are part of this.
As long as they are here, they [international forces] need to approach them with a plan and a strategy and strive for change. But these projects require economy and expertise. Moreover, not only these women, but also people who have stayed in the areas occupied by DAESH and who are refugees in our camps now need rehabilitation. Even though they are not members of the DAESH, they have lived under the rule of DAESH for 4-5 years. Of course, these thoughts and rules have influenced them.
It can't be the job of normal people to train them. This requires professional people and teams. Again, both these expert teams as well as the places where to carry out this rehabilitation need great resources.
We have some schools in our camps. For example, there are 6 schools in Ayn Isa. 5 of them for refugees, 1 for children of DAESH mercenaries. Roj Camp has a school for children of DAESH families. There are no schools in Hol Camp yet. But these are not schools to meet this need, they are like normal schools.
But for these children, we need schools where special teams will operate to provide the right mindset. Not everyone can work in schools where DAESH mercenaries have children, not everyone can provide the accurate training. That's a serious problem we have. At this point, the number of experts we find is very small and the ones we have want to work only a few hours as they are scared.
Now we, the Coalition, the UN, etc. we must carry out a serious work on the people in these camps, because with the Baghouz Initiative, DAESH has ended its geographic domination. We have a lot of projects, we have a program, but these are not projects we can do alone, we need serious help.
And how did the Coalition respond to this request?
We met not only with the Coalition, but with some foreign forces. What they tell us is ‘you are right. We need a project about this. We will talk about this later’.
But so far, they have neither committed themselves nor help.
I would like to point out that there are dozens of foreign citizens in these camps. These countries have the responsibility to take over their citizens. Because they are their own citizens. Are they taking them, judging them, throwing them in jail, rehabilitating them... This is their business now. It's not our job.
We no longer have the strength to remove them as Democratic Autonomous Administration. In the current situation, we will be responsible for their security, meet their daily needs, educate them but we do not have the strength to provide rehabilitation.
Currently, a significant number of DAESH families remain in our camps. They are a great danger for both now and for the future. We don't just talk about women within DAESH. They have a lot of children. These children are a new generation. If the necessary measures and projects are not taken today, tomorrow a new terrorist organization may be formed with or by them.
For this reason, every state should comply with its duties. No one can say, ‘They are far from us, they are in Rojava, they will not affect us’. Today the world is interconnected. They're here today but they can be somewhere else tomorrow.
All European states today talk about human rights from morning to evening. Finding a solution to the mentality of DAESH, to DAESH which is opposed to all human rights, starts from everyone fulfilling their duties about these families and children.
Today is a test day. Okay, they are DAESH members, they are DAESH wives and children, but they are here, they are a reality. Whether we want it or not, and it is therefore necessary to develop a solution for this situation. Because they exist and they are people.”