In the image and likeness of what was the caliphate that Abubaker al Baghdadi proclaimed himself in June 2014 in Mosul (Iraq), in just seven months of captivity the radicals have managed to establish a complex internal structure. “The order who has set herself up as the head of the camp, sleeps every night in a different tent to avoid being arrested ”, says Julia, a pseudonym for a Kurdish militia woman in charge of Al Hol’s security.
A senior Kurdish intelligence official explains that the authorities’ priority has been “to repel the Turkish invasion,” he says. “That is why we had to withdraw the special forces from Al Hol and leave the surveillance in the hands of the Assayish. [fuerzas de seguridad kurdas], worse trained ”. Julia confirms the decision. “Of the 800 guards who controlled the field, only 300 have remained.” An insufficient figure to monitor the settlement, a circumstance used by the jihadists to multiply escape attempts, through tunnels or the payment of large sums of money – of up to 9,000 euros per head— ISIS traffickers bribing camp guards.
This radical matriarchy de facto It is a pioneering movement among jihadist groups that, according to the guards consulted, is radicalizing all the captives in the camp. And with them to the nearly 40,000 minors who have never known the world other than the caliphate and who receive journalists with stones with their index finger raised to the sky. “This is not a camp for displaced people, it is a military camp,” says Julia.
Between the ISIS girlfriends and the children, it is estimated that about 10,400 are what they call international, who are in a special enclosure, and the rest are half Syrian and half Iraqi. Faced with the hesitancy of countries to repatriate their nationals, foreign and local inmates strengthen their ties in the camp, as did Al Bagdadi, who recruited and radicalized those who were to be the leadership of ISIS in the Bucca camp , in Iraq, while held by US troops.
The high security section is where the order It has established four brigades, which are divided among the main nationalities and to which it has assigned specific roles. “The Russians are the most dangerous and the ones that have taken control of the field,” says Julia. Several terrified women refuse to speak to the press because they fear reprisals from the most radical.
One of those four brigades is in charge of replicating what were the jansa in Raqa, a kind of religious patrols ensure that the imposed dress guidelines are respected (all have to wear a facial veil) or that they attend the five daily prayers. Others are the informants, who notify when the Assayish enter to carry out searches of stores, in search of mobiles or weapons. Then there are the executioners, who carry out death sentences and other punishments, such as burning shops or beating someone who does not submit to the laws of the bosses. “Every month there are a couple of murders, the last one was the day before yesterday, when we found the body of this woman,” says Julia, showing a photo on her phone screen of a woman with a blow to her forehead.
In Al Hol, the Spanish Lubna Miludi, 25, with her three-year-old son, and the Moroccan Loubna Fares, 40, with three minor Spanish children are captive. Within the enclosure they have been under the leadership of the Maghreb women. The other two Spanish prisoners, Yolanda Martínez Cobos (34) and Luna Fernández Grande (30), have been transferred to the Al Roj camp, along with 13 Spanish minors. The former remain in the custody of the Kurdish militias, while the latter would pass into Turkish hands in the 30-kilometer-wide strip that Ankara requires. “It has been agreed, when the time comes, to repatriate them to Spain via Istanbul, while those of Al Hol would have to be seen if via Iraq or Damascus,” confirms to EL PAÍS a consulted Spanish government official.
The jihadists They trust Al Hol to stay in the Turkish zone. “If those of [Bachar el] Assad arrive, they will exterminate us all, ”says a Russian woman. “We prefer that the Turks come, but we don’t know what happens,” he says. “I don’t want to be sent to jail in Russia, I prefer to stay here, where we are well and we have food. We live our lives without men, ”says Fatima, 33, also a Russian and mother of two children. She fled her home, abandoning her second husband, whom she accuses of being an abuser, to join the caliphate, where she was given a house and a pension.
Julia’s cell phone has become a kind of death record from the camp, with images like the bruised body of an Uzbek woman, a young Iraqi stabbed 17 times, or a rotting corpse unearthed under the toilets alerted by the stench. In another image, an Assayish appears with a knife stuck in his back and then the smiling faces of uniformed women, Julia’s fellow militiamen. “My best friend was killed several days ago by Islamist mercenaries sent by Ankara. I don’t have the energy to come to work in Al Hol, it boils my blood to think that 11,000 comrades have died fighting against ISIS so that they can escape now, ”he said.
Sleeper cells are roaming the desert landscape around Al Hol and guards fear that, as has happened in several of the 12 jihadist prisons, they will launch an organized attack to free foreign women from the camp. One of those prisons attacked by jihadists was the one in Qamishli, a hundred kilometers from the Al Hol camp. In that city, it is the popular neighborhood defenses, with women like Zubeifa Ali, a 37-year-old Kurdish militia and mother of five, who make up for the lack of troops and patrol the streets of northeast Syria in search of the escapees. “We arrested a man with a woman,” he explains in Qamishli. “They were foreigners, so he pretended to be mentally ill and she a beggar so as not to be identified by her accent.
Several coalition helicopters fly over the countryside as the last American soldiers leave northeastern Syria, fired at gunpoint by the Kurdish population who say they have been betrayed. Kurdish intelligence confirms that the coalition has transferred the most dangerous foreign ISIS prisoners to Iraq. In the Ain Issa camp, in the north of the country, Syrian paramilitaries under Ankara’s orders last week released 800 ISIS women with their children. Among them, seven French women, three of whom contacted their lawyers to inform them that they were fine and that they had rejoined the jihadist ranks in Syria.
The latest addition to the caliphate have been the Zaid el Benat, a group of educated women who have established Islamic courts capable of condemning country subjects to death, and who teach Qur’anic classes to girls and Islamic jurisprudence to adults. The only textbook they use is the Quran and the only philosophy, a radically warped version of Islam. “I study Arabic and the Koran and sometimes English too,” says a seven-year-old girl who was running around Al Hol and who claims to be Chechen. Near her, four black figures approach carrying a stretcher. They are carrying a 12-year-old dying girl, originally from the Caucasus, they say, and in terminal stages of cancer. She is transferred to one of the four field hospitals set up by the 29 NGOs that work in the countryside. Your chances of survival are minimal. “All foreign personnel have been evacuated by their NGOs, and local medical personnel have gone to help the front hospitals,” says Bawer Khalaz, an employee of the Kurdish Red Crescent in the countryside.
Since the start of the Turkish offensive, two weeks ago, no operations have been carried out or the injured have been transferred to the Hasaka hospital, which was where the jihadists from the Al Hol camp had been referred until now. Its already numbered beds are insufficient to care for the wounded evacuated from the front with Turkey. “Every day one or two people die in the field [de Al Hol]”, Calculates Julia. There are already 460 babies who have lost their lives due to malnutrition or respiratory problems, according to the calculation of Save the Children, the organization in charge of the orphanage in the countryside, where 160 homeless children live.
The population of Al Hol is also increasing. Mohamed, the administrative manager of the camp, estimates that there are about 50 births a month, although only 5% of the inhabitants of the camp are men. “Women act like incubators of dogs for the caliphate ”, continues the official. Despite the absence of men, hospitals have begun to receive young pregnant women from the area where foreign jihadists live and where there are no men, only teenagers. “The jihadists marry off 15-year-old boys and girls to reproduce,” is the explanation given to Mohamed by his informants.
The population of the countryside is already 10 times that of the town of Al Hol, just one kilometer away. At the entrance of the town is the cemetery. An Assayish patrol rushes in to identify the strangers loitering near the nameless graves, belonging to the dead in the camp. “Open the hood!”, They scold suspiciously. After observing the cameras they apologize: “We were afraid they were an ISIS cell because this is where they summon the jihadists who escape from Al Hol. Yesterday there were 54 and they are taken away in cars hidden in the trunk ”.
The Al Hol camp also has its own bank, where families send them transfers from the four corners of the planet. And it is that apart from receiving a brief monthly food ration from the Kurdish administration, jihadists with good pockets access the black market that resells products from the internal souk in the Syrian-Iraqi section, where they can buy everything from hair dye and stockings of colors, to tricycles, Internet recharges and even a camping gas. Field staff ensure that transfers are processed via Turkey. For widows, the money comes via Idlib [última provincia insurrecta controlada por los yihadistas afines a Al Qaeda] where the Maktab el Shuhada [la oficina de los mártires] receives charitable donations linked to ISIS. It is this office that transfers the pensions for orphans and widows of their fighters to the Al Hol bank.
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