Facts about the ISIS prison attack in Hesekê

The prison attack carried out by ISIS in coordination with the Turkish state is the latest sign of ISIS' resurgence. Questions like “Is ISIS back?” and “Was there an intelligence and security weakness” remain to be answered among many others.

Following the ISIS attack on January 20 against the Sinaa Prison where around 4,100 detainees stay in the Xiwêran (Gweiran) neighbourhood of Hesekê, the issue of the imprisoned ISIS members has been brought up once again.

After the military presence of ISIS in the Baxoz (Baghouz) district of Deir ez-Zor was terminated in March 2019, almost 11,000 ISIS members were arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In the meantime, 70,000 people, who are families and children of ISIS members, are held in camps in north-eastern Syria.

4,100 fighters that make up the armed force of ISIS are kept in Sinaa Prison in the Xiwêran neighbourhood of Hesekê.

Moreover, approximately 700 children under the age of 18, called Eşbal-i Xilafe (Cubs of the Caliphate) who received military training by ISIS are held in a rehabilitation centre in a different block in the Xiwêran region.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have issued several calls for the prosecution of ISIS members who are nationals of 54 different countries and their return to their countries of origin. Their calls have remained unanswered so far.


What has been done in north-eastern Syria for the trial of ISIS members in question for the last three years since they were captured in Baxoz and arrested? Two proposals have been made by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the SDF to this end.

The first proposal was the establishment of an international court to prosecute ISIS members in the places where they committed war crimes (notably Kobanê and Shengal).

The second was the repatriation of ISIS members to the countries of which they are citizens where they can be tried according to their own laws and subjected them to criminal sanctions.

On this basis, an international forum was organized by the Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies (NRLS) in the Amûdê district of Qamishlo in July 2019.

However, no official response has been given to the calls of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the SDF apart from a few countries (which only took the children back).


There are several questions that remain to be answered after the latest ISIS attack on Hesekê and the simultaneous Turkish attacks against Shengal, Til Temir, Ain Issa and Kobanê.

The first question is, “Was there an intelligence and security weakness and, if so, was it because of the SDF?”.

According to the information obtained, France, a member of the International Coalition against ISIS, is tasked with collecting and analysing the intelligence of the region, sharing data with the necessary institutions and taking the necessary measures.

Intelligence sharing was carried out in coordination with the SDF. However, it is reported that there had been intelligence sharing shortcomings lately.

England, one of the main partners of the Coalition, was responsible for the internal security of the prison together with the SDF. Therefore, England was charged with preventing a possible rebellion, escape or attack that could target the internal security of the prison.

There had been various attempts to release ISIS members in the prison in question, but these attempts were frustrated by the SDF.

The latest attack was carried out to free these ISIS members and send them to different parts of the region and the world. If the attack had been successful, humanity would once again have faced the brutality of ISIS.


According to information received from SDF officials, the purpose of ISIS was “not just to liberate imprisoned fighters”. The main goal was “to establish military dominance over an area from Hesekê to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor together with the mercenaries from Serêkaniyê, Girê Spî and Iraq after rescuing the jailed fighters in Hesekê.”

The Sinaa Prison, which is designated as “a hand-grenade without a pin” for north-eastern Syria and the region, is regarded as “a recruitment pool for ISIS fighters” by the Turkish state and the Syrian National Army (SNA) backed by Turkey.