The ISIS attack on a prison in al-Hasakah, Syria, on January 20, and the ensuing battle left hundreds of ISIS suspects dead, escaped, or unaccounted for. While the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have regained control of the prison, many questions remain about the security and humanitarian risks that this situation entails. The incident has been a powerful example of the various challenges posed by the 45,000 men, women, and children from nearly 60 countries being held in SDF managed prisons and camps for their alleged ties to ISIS in northern Syria.
The majority of women and children have been living in camps like al-Hol or al-Roj in worrisome conditions for years. But according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, al-Sina’a prison in al-Hasakah held about 4,000 ISIS suspects, including 700 boys—some as young as 10 years old. While much of the debate in the previous years has focused on the prospects of repatriation and return of (particularly foreign) ISIS-affiliated women and children in camps, the fate of adolescent boys has received less attention. However, ISIS’s gendered and militarized roles for boys have led them to be labeled as a security risk, both by foreign governments and the local SDFs. As a consequence, male adolescents are often detained in the same prisons as adult ISIS suspects.
The approach to these boys is part of broader challenges of human rights-based processes of threat assessment, judicial responses, and rehabilitation and reintegration of ISIS-affiliated persons.
Dr. Gina Vale
Senior Research Fellow, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), King’s College London
Senior Research Analyst, Counter Extremism Project (CEP)
Moderator and Introductory Remarks:
Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler
Senior Director, Counter Extremism Project (CEP)