More than 60 Britons held in overcrowded prisons and lawless refugee camps in north-east Syria are foreign Islamic State fighters, so they should be put on trial there as part of an international effort to de-radicalise the region.
Western help is needed to deal with the prisoners locally, including setting up a recognised war crimes tribunal, amid warnings that ISIS could otherwise rebuild.
In addition, images emerged this week on the social media about the insanitary conditions in makeshift prisons. The photos showed more than 50 nationalities were held in packed cells, sometimes 20 to a room. On the hand, local politicians admitted they had lost control of the refugee camps to ISIS radicals.
Dr Abdulkarim Omar, the de facto foreign secretary, said: “We call for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those fighters here in our region.” He added, “We call for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those fighters here in our region, the ISIS criminals committed their crimes in our region and against our communities. Evidence, proof and witnesses against them are in this region.”
The estimates of the number of ISIS fighters in detention vary. The administration puts the figure at 6,000, including 1,000 foreigners, but others say the true number is double that. Some have been in custody for two without trial after Isis sustained a series of battlefield defeats. Refugee camps hold in excess of 100,000 people, most of them are women and children, the other camp called al-Hawl holding more than 70,000.
The administration is struggling with the postwar legacy, the region only received “5% of the resources it needs” from the international community to help, officials repeatedly described the prisons and camps as a “ticking time bomb”.
Two British MPs who went to the prisons they said the situation in the prisons and camps was critical. They also went to a refugee camp, said the UK had a “debt of honour” to help those who fought ISIS on the ground. “The time bomb of captured Isis fighters and radicalised families is beyond the capacity of north-east Syria to address”. Said, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour MP who chairs the parliamentary group on north-east Syria. He mentions, “any failure to prioritise this would be international security negligence of the first order.”
The MPs also criticized the UK for not recognizing north-east Syria politically, with ministers refusing to meet administration officials when they visited London earlier.
ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released an audio message that seemed to suggest remembering what happened to Iraq in 2003 in the aftermath of the US invasion, where ISIS leaders congregated and were further radicalised at Camp Bucca.
Control of refugee al-Hawl camps, is increasingly in the hands of “radical women” from Tunisia, Somalia and Russia. Their tents were burned down and they are regularly pelted with stones.
According to the local administration there are sixteen British families among the 12,700 people from outside Syria and Iraq living in al-Hawl, though there is limited evidence that any sustained effort has been made to establish details about who is in the camp.
Applied the dress codes are strictly enforced. Members of the SDF guarding the camp said a mother killed her daughter with a hammer for not wearing the chador and her body was left out in the camp as a warning to others.
Local politicians said the UK and other countries should be prepared to repatriate children born to ISIS members, as part of a deradicalization programmed. These children are victims, their only guilt is that they belong to parents who joined ISIS.
In the end, if we do not address this problem this year and provide rehabilitation for them, we can expect a second generation of terrorists that could be even more brutal.
*Miral AlAshry, Associate Professor at Future University (FUE), Political Mass Media Department