As the UK and rest of Europe gear up for a second national lockdown, the inhabitants of Syria’s al-Hawl camp are having to worry about more than just contracting a virus this winter. The Times’ War Correspondent, Anthony Loyd, recently visited the facility and his account of their current situation was far from what should be permissible.
Al-Hawl is a refugee camp which accommodates those who have been displaced from an Islamic State group-occupied territory. It is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (a US-backed group) and has a population of around 68,000.
Established in 1991, for Iraqi refugees during the Gulf War, the camp is located in Northern Syria and sits on the Iran-Syrian border. For those residents that can call it home, it’s a population mainly consisting of women and children (94% of them). Meaning only just 6% of those living in the camp are men.
The camp’s current security situation is in dire straits, with the facilities manager admitting there has been a total of nine murders in the past four weeks and that there’s a multitude of ISIS women who’ve acquired silenced pistols inside the wire.
Amara, the camp’s manager, realises they are losing control of the facility, and that the struggle began after a massive influx of women and children sought refuge after fleeing from IS-held territory last year.
– Since the withdrawal of multiple units of US Troops from Syria last year, the camp has struggled to maintain control.
– Not only do residents live in filthy, disease-ridden conditions, but a selection of faithful individuals to the Islamic State’s al-Hisbah enforcement police began to impose their discipline amongst those in camp.
– The camp authorities admit to between 30 and 35 murders in al-Hawl so far in 2020 but they cannot be sure of the precise count. Some of the bodies are still hidden.
– Al-Hisbah use silenced pistols or knives, and some killings also occur due to tribal disputes.
There have been efforts made by Russia, the US and Indonesia to repatriate their citizens held in the camp. Removing over 766 women and children in 2020, however, the majority of European nations – including the UK – didn’t choose to do the same.
To live in Al-Hawl is to live in inhumane conditions. Not the words of the camp manager, former residents or even journalists, but the words of the United Nations.