As a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) military alliance, we as YPJ played a crucial role in the defeat of the so-called ISIS “caliphate”. Since the last battle against ISIS held territory in the town of Baghouz in March 2019, more than 10,000 ISIS militants are detained in our areas. Among the detainees there is a huge number of foreigners, who came to Syria from more than 50 different countries to join ISIS. Around 2,000 of them come from western countries, while others come from the Caucasus, North Africa and the Middle and Far East.The mothers and children of these foreign ISIS members are detained in camps, with al-Hol camp being the largest one, housing 50,000 people.
Al-Hol camp became a breeding ground for a new generation of highly fanatical Islamists that seek not only to take revenge for their lost “caliphate,” but will do anything to ensure the organizations continuation, seeking to keep the caliphate alive. Murders and beheadings occur frequently within the camp, and hidden sharia courts punish women who refuse to obey to the extremist ideology of the ISIS organization. Mothers have been observed indoctrinating children into the ideology of the terrorist group, as well as giving them military-like physical education. To create a new generation of ISIS militants, boys in the camp are subject to systematized rape, impregnating selected women. Leaving children in an environment where they are exposed to a extremely violent ideology, sexual abuse and indoctrination violates the Children’s Law No.7 (2022) of the AANES that mandates that children be protected from dangerous environments.
Foreign ISIS women play a vital role in ensuring the ideological continuity of the organization. These women are often depicted as naive wives who simply followed their husbands to Syria. To demonstrate this false narrative, we will display content taken from phones possessed secretly and illegally by ISIS women in the camp. Phones are forbidden in order to prevent coordination with ISIS sleeper cells who seek to organize the escape of those held in the camp. Illicitly possessed phones are therefore confiscated and searched. All footage used in the video was found on confiscated phones of foreign ISIS women, or from recordings inside the Al-Hol camp itself.
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the SDF have repeatedly called on the international community to solve the situation of the foreign nationals by repatriating them and trying them in the courts of their respective countries. These calls remain mostly unheard, and the people of North and East Syria, despite having suffered most from the barbaric violence of ISIS, are left alone with the burden of providing support and safe detention for the ISIS members, as well as prevention and de-radicalization projects for the children of the ISIS members. This is why in June 2023, the AANES announced it would begin the trail of detained foreign ISIS members locally, on the land where their organization carried out its most heinous crimes.
As YPJ we know that ISIS is not over, just because their territory was defeated. As long as their ideology is spreading and passed down to the next generation, the threat against the whole of humanity continues. The fight against groups like ISIS is not just a military one, but an ideological one. Against the misogynist, cruel ideology of ISIS, that spreads fear and leads to enslavement and genocide, we are committed to spread the project of Democratic Confederalism – a system in which society is organized in communes and councils with the participation of all religious groups and ethnicities, centered around women’s liberation and ecology. Many of our beloved fighters gave their life in protecting our people and the world against the barbarism of ISIS. Against the horrendous cruelty that ISIS carried out against women and the peoples of the Middle East, we as YPJ are developing and protecting a women’s revolution in which women can truly liberate themselves, opening the way for the liberation of their societies and to a truly democratic Middle East.