ISIS women escape Syrian camp and flee to Turkey - VoA

Intruders disguised as security forces sneaked into al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria and smuggled out dozens of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked women, who are thought to have fled to Turkey, U.S. government-funded outlet Voice of America reported.

Judy Serbilind, who monitors detained ISIS female affiliates at the camp, said the women had paid the smugglers, who wore police outfits and uniforms of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Serbilind said dozens of women had escaped, and that most had come from outside Syria, particularly Europe.

“We believe that they fled to Idlib, then to Turkey,” she told VoA. “We think some of them might reach out to the embassies of their countries and some (will) stay in Turkey.”

Al-Hol is a makeshift camp for people displaced in Deir al-Zor province, and its population soared to 70,000 following an offensive led by U.S.-allied SDF that cleared ISIS from its last stronghold earlier this year, VoA reported. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 11,000 people in the camp are foreign women and children linked to ISIS. 

Syrian Kurdish officials have said they are holding hundreds of foreign fighters in their prisons, and thousands of their wives and children from 44 countries, which they have called on to repatriate their nationals. 

The SDF had increased its security presence at the camp after several escape incidents and due to increased violence and unrest in the camp, said VoA. Supervisors and security forces reported ISIS women saying they wanted to establish an Islamic State inside the camp, and two security officers were recently stabbed by ISIS-linked women, according to Serbilind. 

“They are also threatening to revolt once Turkey carries out its threats of crossing the border to Eastern Euphrates,” she added, referring to Turkey’s repeated threat to enter northeast Syria to go after the SDF if U.S. forces fail to implement an agreed safe zone plan. 

Turkey views the SDF and its affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has led an armed insurgency in Turkey for decades and is labelled a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. 

Some researchers believe the ISIS women who fled the camp may not be able to drive an ISIS resurgence, but that their extreme viewpoints could encourage sympathisers around the world, including their children.

“I think that the danger lies in their ability to ensure that the next generation are raised with really radical viewpoints,” said Mia Bloom, a professor of communications and Middle Eastern studies at Georgia State University.