The murder of two girls in the Al Hol camp brought to light the humanitarian crisis that thousands of people are going through in Syria

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Save the Children detailed that the victims were 12 and 15 years old, while highlighting the dangers faced “every day” by women and children who live there. Doctors Without Borders denounced the “huge open-air prison” and criticized the position of the coalition and countries that do not repatriate their citizens

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The murder The death of two girls in the Al Hol camp brought to light the humanitarian crisis facing thousands of people in Syria

The murders were the first documented in the last three months in the camp, created by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1991 during the Gulf War and expanded after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, where there have been about 30 violent deaths so far this year. REUTERS/Orhan Qereman

The recent murders of children in the Al Hol camp for displaced persons, located in the northeast of Syria and which is home to tens of thousands of people, reflect the dramatic situation faced by internees in the facilities, which are home to relatives of alleged members of the Islamic State jihadist group.

During Monday, the bodies of two Egyptian girls who had been reported missing shortly before inside the camp were found, according to confirmed the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The body, based in London and informants in the Arab country, indicated that both had been killed with bladed weapons and detailed that the bodies had been located in the 'Al Mohayerat' section of Al Hol, which shelters foreign women.

After that, Save the Children detailed that the victims they were 12 and 15 years old, while highlighting the dangers faced “on a daily basis” by women and children living in Al Hol. “This news is absolutely heartbreaking. These two girls were trapped in the camp through no fault of their own. His death is a reminder that no child should grow up in these camps,” said the NGO's Syria response director, Beat Rohr.

The killings were the first documented in the last three months in the camp, created by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1991 during the Gulf War and expanded after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, where some 30 violent deaths have been recorded in so far this year.

The murder of two girls in the Al Hol camp brought to light the humanitarian crisis that thousands of people cross in Syria

A girl stands near waiting women during a search operation at al-Hol camp, which houses displaced people and families of Islamic State fighters, in Syria's northeastern Hasaka governorate, on 26 August 2022. REUTERS/Orhan Qereman

Doctors Without Borders reviews in its report 'Between two fires: danger and despair in the Syrian camp of Al Hol', that 79 children died in 2021 in the facilities , while noting that 64% of residents are under 16 years of age, with half under twelve. In addition, it indicates that among the causes of infant mortality is violence, but also run overs and falls into deep ditches of dirty water.

“We have seen and heard many tragic stories. Children dying from long delays in accessing urgent medical care,” says MSF Operations Manager in Syria Martine Flokstra. “For children and their caregivers in Al Hol, receiving medical attention, when they do get it, is often a terrifying ordeal. Children who need treatment at the main hospital, located an hour's drive from the camp, are escorted by armed guards and, in most cases, without their caregivers, as they are rarely allowed to go with their children.” , complaint.

Flokstra stresses that “Al Hol is actually a huge open-air prison” and adds that “the majority are children, many of whom were born there, who have had their childhood stolen and sentenced to a life exposed to violence and exploitation, uneducated, with limited medical support and no hope in sight.”

PETITION TO ACCELERATE RETURNS

Various NGOs are calling for countries to speed up the repatriation of citizens from this camp and others in north-eastern Syria, an area controlled by the Kurdish authorities. Citizens from around 60 countries are believed to be in Al Hol and other detention camps, including Spaniards.

The murder of two girls in the Al Hol camp brought to light the humanitarian crisis that thousands of people cross in Syria

The Autonomous Administration for North and East Syria (AANES) has warned of the danger of the absence of international aid in the management of the camps, while the United States warned in September that Al Hol is “a breeding ground for the next generation of Islamic State. REUTERS/Orhan Qereman

Thus, Save the Children highlights that since 2019 nearly 14,000 children have been repatriated from Al Hol and Roj, although 11,000 foreign children and women are still “trapped” in these camps, where the risks are compounded by the recently declared cholera outbreak in Syria.

MSF says the US-led coalition against Islamic State and countries whose nationals are in the camp “have failed their citizens”. “They need to take responsibility and identify alternative solutions,” Flokstra argues. “Instead, they have delayed or simply refused to repatriate their citizens, in some cases even stripping them of their citizenship, rendering them stateless,” she denounces.

In this sense, it regrets that “there are still no long-term alternatives to end this arbitrary and indefinite detention” and warns that “the longer people are kept in Al Hol, the worse it will be, leaving a new generation vulnerable to exploitation and with no prospect of a violence-free childhood.”

The NGO indicates in its report that “under the auspices of the group for the global fight against the Islamic State, exceptional policies involving the indefinite and arbitrary detention of women, children and men have been applied in the Al Hol camp.”

< p>The murder of two girls in the Al Hol camp brought the crisis to light humanitarian crisis that thousands of people are going through in Syria

Doctors Without Borders reviews in its report 'Between two fires: danger and despair in the Syrian camp of Al Hol', that 79 children died in 2021 in the facilities, while noting that 64% of residents are under 16 years of age , with half below twelve. In addition, it indicates that among the causes of infant mortality is violence, but also run overs and falls into deep ditches of dirty water. REUTERS/Orhan Qereman

RECRUITMENT EFFORTS

Islamic State took control of Al Hol in early 2014 as part of its lightning offensive, although the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expelled the jihadists in November 2015, after which the camp reopened in April 2016 to host Iraqi refugees. Although the facilities housed some 10,000 people in 2018, the number skyrocketed between December of that year and March 2019 to 73,000 after the SDF took over the city of Baghuz, the last bastion of the Islamic State in Syria.< /p>

The Autonomous Administration for North and East Syria (AANES) has warned of the danger of the absence of international aid in managing the camps, while the United States warned in September that Al Hol is “a breeding ground for the next generation of Islamic State”.

General Michael Kurilla, of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), acknowledged that the jihadists “seek to exploit the horrific conditions” at the facilities and stressed that the residents “are vulnerable to radicalization.” “Islamic State sees the camp as a captive audience for its message and its recruitment efforts,” he explained.

MSF acknowledges that the AANES and the SDS “have been poorly equipped and misguided when it comes to managing the procedures in a way that complies with international standards and laws”, before lamenting that this has resulted in “repeated violations of Human Rights and recurring patterns of violence and exploitation” in Al Hol.

The murder of Two girls in the Al Hol camp brought to light the humanitarian crisis that thousands of people are going through in Syria

Save the Children highlights that since 2019 nearly 14,000 children have been repatriated from Al Hol and Roj, although 11,000 foreign children and women remain “trapped” in these camps, where the risks are compounded by the recently declared outbreak of cholera in Syria. REUTERS/Orhan Qereman

For this reason, it emphasizes that the residents say they are “caught between two fires”: that of “extreme violence” by jihadists present in the camp and the “increasingly harsh security measures” of the Kurdish authorities to try to control the situation. Thus, he affirms that the “ideological demographics” of the residents “is much more diverse than the narratives about their affiliation with the Islamic State suggest”.

“In a word, what we live here it is awful. We are in Al Hol because we were promised freedom and good living conditions if we left Baghuz and the war ended. I decided to leave Baghuz. Now I regret it. I thought it would be true, that it would be free, but nothing. If I had known, I would have preferred to die than come here”, recounts a resident.

A displaced person says that “everyone has a different story” and that “not everyone is from Islamic State”. “My husband was from Islamic State and he took my children, so I was forced to follow him because my daughter was with him. What else could she do? I didn't want to be separated from her and I wanted to protect her”, he affirms. “My family asked me not to leave and now they don't speak to me. I don't have anyone outside of Al Hol,” he laments.

MSF therefore calls on the coalition to support the authorities in adopting “immediate measures” to “guarantee the well-being, protection and the fundamental rights of the population”, including measures to “reduce violence, insecurity and criminal activities” and “strengthen capacities to deliver humanitarian aid” in Al Hol.

(with information from EP)

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