After ISIS’s defeat, where are the prisoners?

ISIS
ISIS

Politics | 01 Mar 2019

Thousands of Syrian prisoners, captured by ISIS, continue to disappear, despite the fact that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) managed to regain control over most of the areas that were previously seized by the terrorist organization in the city of Deir ez-Zor and its countryside. Thus, the families of the kidnapped are still searching for them.


Hundreds of Syrian families have called on the SDF and international organizations to uncover the fate of their sons and daughters, which
remains unknown.

The SDF officials did not provide efficient answers yet, as the numbers of the prisoners, who are still alive or passed away, are kept confidential until now under the pretext of maintaining the secrecy of investigations and international security.

For five years, journalist Faten Ajan has been searching for any information that contributes to revealing the fate of her kidnapped son, who was abducted by ISIS in Saraqib.
In a meeting with Radio Rozana, the mother of the journalist and activist, Abouda Haddad, demanded the humanitarian organizations to reveal the fate of her son who has been kidnapped since 2013.
Haddad’s mother held the SDF fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped, noting that: "for five years we did not know anything about our children and for more than two years the SDF refused to reveal the names of liberated captives, who have been rescued from ISIS-controlled areas."

Abouda Haddad’s picture
The SDF obtained the files and papers found in ISIS detention centers, prisons, and in sites previously controlled by the terrorist organization, which the Kurdish faction seized after liberating the area.

Haddad has disappeared since June 26, 2013, as he was arrested in front of the Atma border crossing barrier, on charges of working in media, during the period in which ISIS broke its alliance al-Nusra Front.

According to the information received at the time, Abu Dujana al-Tounsi interrogated him, before being transferred to the prison.

ISIS’s control over the city of Raqqa, which was referred to by the capital of the caliphate since 2014, receded in October 2017, and then expanded towards the city of Deir ez-Zor.

The exact numbers of the kidnapped and missing, who have been forcibly disappeared by ISIS, remain unclear, despite the social media campaigns carried out by activists from the cities of Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, which have recorded thousands of victims.

In its report entitled: ISIS’s Torture and Detention Centers: The Black Bottom, published on April 22, 2016, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has documented the arrest of at least 6,318 people by ISIS, including 713 children and 647 women, since its formation in April 9, 2014 to March 2016, while at least 1,188 people, including 411 children and 87 women, were subjected to enforced disappearance from April 9, 2013 to March 2016.

The report also recorded the presence of approximately 19 detention centers distributed to eight sites in Raqqa, six in Deir ez-Zor and five in Aleppo while ISIS was operating in Syria.
In an interview with Radio Rozana, Ms Ajan said that she has been informed that the SDF kept some prisoners, who were freed while raiding the last ISIS site in the town of al-Baghuz, under custody. Thus, the names of the detainees have not even been announced.

Ajan stated: "It is a shame that the fate of the civilian prisoners who were captivated by the terrorist organization is still uncovered, while the ISIS leaders are being extradited to other areas and countries."

On February 8, Francesca Dall'Olio disclosed that she had received news about her brother, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was detained by ISIS, in statements to AKIpress News Agency, but described these reports as "cautious hope."

ISIS prisons in Raqqa - Municipal Stadium - site
The Italian priest, founder of the monastery of Deir Mar Musa El-Habashi, was kidnapped in Syria on July 29, 2013, while he was in Raqqa, north of the country.

The Times quoted high-ranking Kurdish sources as saying that "ISIS is seeking an agreement with the US-backed Kurdish-Arab forces (the SDF) to seek a safe getaway, in exchange for the release of some of the hostages allegedly still under its custody.”

Mock killings carried out by ISIS!

Rozana’s correspondent in Deir ez-Zor, Sariya Al-Diri, confirmed that the SDF still has some civilian prisoners who were freed after entering ISIS-controlled areas.

The reporter explained that an unspecified number of civilian prisoners were released and, after investigation, they were transferred to the SDF-controlled areas.

He indicated that only three prisoners out of the whole group were released, while the SDF promised to hand over all the civilian captives after completing the procedures and investigating with them.

Civil sources from the region also reported to Rozana that 40 prisoners were transferred from al-Omar field to classified locations, adding that this group included detainees from Raqqa and from other regions.

The same source stated that "one prisoner, who was allegedly killed in one of ISIS’s media releases, turned out to be alive later."

Adnan Afrin, an SDF official, previously stated to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that many of the kidnapped and hostages are still alive in the last ISIS-controlled location, besieged by the Kurdish faction.

Afrin continued: "We do not have any information to date on the fate of the prisoners," adding that after liberating the cities and towns of al-Soussa, al-Shu`fah, and Hajin, in addition to a large part of al-Baghuz village, ISIS’s last stronghold, "the terrorist organization started burning its headquarters and painting its secret facilities to conceal evidences. We are fully prepared to free all hostages if their location or fate becomes known to us."

The names of the detainees registered in Manbij prison

Prisoners’ file is a heavy legacy, and their cause must be internationalized

Journalist and human rights activist Abdel Qader Laila said in a phone call with Rozana’s correspondent: “The file of the ISIS prisoners is a black box and no one wants to talk about it or discuss it, neither the coalition forces nor the Syrian Democratic Forces,” noting that “everyone is evading the task of revealing the details of this heavy and mysterious file."

One of ISIS prisons in Raqqa - Arabi21

The human rights activist emphasized the great secrecy with which this file is handled, saying that: "No one wants to disclose any information. Apparently the concerned parties are reluctant to solve the issue and try to evade taking responsibility for this heavy inheritance. The SDF says that ISIS took them and we know nothing about their whereabouts and the coalition says the kidnapped are Syrian nationals, which means that the Syrian state is required to handle their file."

He accused the parties fighting ISIS of intending to overlook the issue of the prisoners and refrain from cooperating in a serious and positive way to find the missing.

The human rights activist noted: "This file is not rewarding, neither on political nor financial levels, and therefore it has only a human value, which is unnoticeable within the context of the mega projects that major powers seek to realize. If the file of ISIS prisoners is not internationalized, then there will be no tangible outcomes in the foreseeable future.”

It is noteworthy that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported earlier that about 1,400 family members of ISIS fighters had left the farms surrounding al-Baghuz village in the previous 24 hours, conveying that they were transported by trucks to the Iraqi territory while avoiding any media attention.

But, the head of the foreign relations office in the Kurdish Autonomous Administration Abdul Karim Omar denied that the SDF had transferred any of them to Iraq. The Iraqi Tribal Mobilization declared that security authorities received members of ISIS who were in Syria.

A spokesman for the Iraqi Security Information Center, Brigadier Yahya Rasoul, told AFP that the Iraqi security forces received those who were fighting in the ranks of ISIS in Syria, from the SDF.

Who has the truth?

The kidnapper's mother, Abouda Haddad, stressed that the prisoners are received by the SDF and are responsible for their safety, noting that they did not cooperate in revealing their fate. She added that this file had been manipulated and underestimated, which is inhumane.

Haddad’s mother also held the coalition forces responsible for this disregard and manipulation of the prisoners’ file. “The coalition has the greatest responsibility to know the fate of our children,” she said.

Al-Houta site - one of the areas that ISIS used to get rid of its detainees

On the other hand, Abdul Kader blamed both military parties that led the battle against ISIS to reveal the fate of those prisoners. He noted that this file needs a statistical office to know at least the number of missing and kidnapped to know the real numbers of those absent in ISIS.

Abdul Kader said in his speech that the hope of the kidnappers' families evaporated after the collapse of the last point controlled by the organization. This may force them, as all Syrians, to press through more strong campaigns  to clarify the matters that are under the custody of  those concerned and may then have a bigger impact in the upcoming days.

“Unfortunately, we do not yet have clear information about the Syrian prisoners who were in ISIS prisons, and that the Democratic Syria is still searching for elements of its forces kidnapped since the battles of Ayn al-Arab, Kobani,” said the media spokesperson of the SDF to Rozana. He pointed out that the trucks that leave al-Baghuz are subject to personal and identity checks, and most of their drivers are foreign nationals. He clarified that as long as there is no evidence to prove the killing of the disappeared, we still hope to find them, which is the basis for the statement of the official in the SDF Adnan Afrin.

One of the trucks that transported ISIS women from al-Baghuz - Deir ez-Zor

Yesterday, the SDF’s commander Mazloum Kobani vowed to announce the “complete victory” over ISIS, within a week.

On Thursday, the SDF launched a recent attack to control its location in al-Baghuz to eliminate the last remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Sham announced on June 29, 2014 the Islamic caliphate and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of Muslims. It is an armed organization that follows the ideology of Salafi jihadism. ISIS has members mainly in Iraq and Syria, however, there are news of its presence in the regions other countries south of Yemen Libya, Sinai, Azawad, Somalia, northeastern Nigeria and Pakistan.

For its part, Rozana Foundation is still awaiting information on its kidnapped correspondents by ISIS, including Osama Hassan, Maysaa Salih and Muhammad al-Omar.


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