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Syria's Kurds say 800 women, children to leave crowded camp

By AFP - Jun 03,2019 - Last updated at Jun 03,2019

This photo shows Al Hol camp for displaced people in Al Hasakeh governorate in north-eastern Syria on Sunday (AFP photo)

AIN ISSA, Syria — Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria said on Sunday they plan to hand 800 women and children, including relatives of extremists, to their families in the first such transfer from an overcrowded camp.

The women and children — all Syrians — are living among the dregs of the Daesh group in the Kurdish-run Al Hol camp, home to nearly 74,000 people including more than 30,000 Syrians.

They will leave on Monday and be "taken to their families" at the request of local Arab tribes, according to Abd Al Mehbach, co-chair of the Kurdish administration's executive council.

The move follows an agreement brokered by the Kurdish administration and Arab tribal leaders during a meeting in the town of Ain Issa last month. 

It is to be the first in a larger wave of releases that aim to empty Al Hol of its Syrian residents, he said.

The next batch is expected to follow after the Eid Al Fitr holiday due to start sometime in the next few days marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hoovered up during a final offensive against the terrorists by a US-backed Kurdish-led force, thousands of wives and children of Daesh fighters have been trucked into Al Hol from a string of Syrian villages south of the camp in recent months.

Their numbers have created a major headache for the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration and have sparked concerns that the camp is emerging as a fresh powder keg.

‘Our sisters, our mothers’ 


But "not all of those being released are relatives of Daesh fighters", Mehbach said of the group set to leave on Monday. 

Some sought shelter at the camp to escape tough humanitarian conditions in areas levelled by months of fighting, he said.

Monday's group consists of residents from the north-eastern city of Raqqa — once Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria — as well as the town of Tabqa, 70 kilometres west, according to Mehbach.

Those among them with suspected links to Daesh will be kept under surveillance by local Arab tribes, who have given guarantees, he said.

"It is the [Kurdish] administration's duty to its people to play a role in the rehabilitation of these women and children, and their reintegration into society," he added.

A Raqqa tribal leader, Ali Mahamid Ali, said that Arab tribes are trying to secure the release of all Syrian women held in Al Hol.

"They are all our sisters, our mothers," he said. 

"We gave guarantees... the [women and children] will be released under our responsibility." 

The Daesh proto-state was declared defeated on March 23, following a nearly five-year-long offensive against the group.

Thousands of foreign fighters are being held in Kurdish-run prisons, while their wives and children languish in displacement camps.

Among the hordes of Syrians and Iraqis, some 12,000 foreigners are held in a fenced-off section of the Al Hol camp, under the watch of Kurdish forces.

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