Al-Hawl refugee camp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The camp in October 2019.

The al-Hawl refugee camp (also al-Hol refugee camp[1]) is a refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the town of al-Hawl in northern Syria, close to the Syria-Iraq border, which holds individuals displaced from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[2] It is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). As of February 2021, the camp's population was more than 60,000[3] having grown from 10,000 at the beginning of 2019 after the SDF took the last of the Islamic State's territory in Syria in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani.[4] The refugees are women and children from many countries, primarily Syria and Iraq.[5]


The camp was originally established for Iraqi refugees in early 1991, during the Gulf war,[6][7] and was later reopened after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as one of three camps at the Iraqi–Syrian border.[8]


While at the beginning of 2019 the camp held about 10,000 people its size increased dramatically with the collapse of ISIS.[4] By February 2021, the camp's population was estimated at more than 60,000.[3] An estimate in September 2019 indicated that the camp held about 20,000 women and 50,000 children from the former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) guarded by 400 SDF militia fighters.[4]

Administration and conditions in the camp[edit]

In the context of the Syrian Civil War and the takeover of al-Hawl by the SDF, the camp, alongside the Ayn Issa refugee camp has become a center for refugees from the fighting between the SDF and ISIL during the SDF campaign in Deir ez-Zor and the camp held approximately 10,000 refugees in early December 2018.[10] In April 2018, a typhoid outbreak killed 24 people in the camp.[11]

During the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani in December 2018, the camp saw a massive influx of refugees in a series of massive civilian evacuations, with people fleeing the fierce fighting between the SDF and ISIL. Conditions along the road to the camp, including in screening centers for ISIL operatives, have been described as "extremely harsh" with limited food, water, shelter and no health services. As of 4 February 2019, at least 35 children and newborns had also reportedly died either en route or shortly after arriving in the camp, mostly due to hypothermia. Aid organizations feared dysentery and other diseases could break out from the overflowing camp. The UN stated that 84 people, mostly children, died on the way to al-Hawl since December 2018. Families of Daesh fighters are kept at a separate guarded section of the camp after repeated violent incidents between them and other members of the camp.[12][13][14][15]

In February 2019, Zehra Duman, an Australian who married an Australian jihadi fighter shortly after her arrival, told her mother she and her two young children were living in the camp.[2] She told her mother that there was a terrible shortage of food, and she feared her six-month-old daughter would starve to death. In early 2019, pregnant British citizen and former ISIL member Shamima Begum was found in the al-Hawl camp.[16][17] Her newborn son died within weeks of birth.[18] In March 2019, the former American citizen and former ISIL member Hoda Muthana and her 18-month-old son were also reported to be living in the camp.[19]

At least 100 people have died during the trip, or shortly after arriving at the camp since December 2018.[20]

In April 2019, women and girls at the camp told a female journalist, "Convert, convert!" urging her to recite the shahada. They told her, "If you became Muslim and cover (your body and face) like us and became a member of our religion, you would not be killed". Many of them prayed for the caliphate of ISIL to return.[21] The women justified the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL and ISIL's taking of Yazidi sex slaves. An Iraqi woman said, "If they don't convert to Islam and they don't become Muslim like us and worship Allah, then they deserve it."[22]

In a report published in April 2019, BBC journalist Quentin Sommerville described the camp as "an overflowing vessel of anger and unanswered questions," where some women "cling to their hate-fuelled ideology, others beg for a way out - a way home." Quentin quoted a Moroccan-Belgian woman, a former nurse who grabbed her niqab saying: "This is my choice. In Belgium I couldn't wear my niqab - this is my choice. Every religion did something wrong, show us the good." The woman saw there was no need to apologise for the IS attack in Brussels in 2016 and blamed the West and its air-strikes on Baghouz for their dire conditions.[23]

A report in the Washington Post from September 2019 describes the increased radicalization within the camp where conditions are dismal, security lax, and people who do not follow ISIS ideology live in fear.[4]

On 28 November 2019, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent announced that over 36,000 of the camp's inhabitants had received aid from the organization at clinics established in the camp and via a mobile medical team there.[24] In October 2020, in an attempt to address the situation of the overpopulation of the camp, it was announced that the authorities of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) decided to release all the Syrian nationals from the camp, which account for about half of the population of the camp. There would still remain over 25,000 Iraqi and 10,000 people from other nationalities in the refugee camp.[25]

In October 2020, SDF announced plans to free thousands of Syrians held at the Al-Hawl refugee camp.[26]

During January and February 2021, 21 people were killed by cells of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant which was more than triple the number of people killed in recent months in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described as the "Al-Hawl mini-state."[3][27]


Repatriation is difficult as many camp residents have become radicalized and pose a potential threat to their home country.[4] Sommerville indicated that "western governments prevaricate" or may not have plans to take people back.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sommerville, Quentin (12 April 2019). "The women and children no-one wants". Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019 – via
  2. ^ a b Naima Brown (2019-02-28). "EXCLUSIVE: Mother of Australian 'IS bride' begs government 'please bring my daughter home'". Dateline. Archived from the original on 2019-03-12. Retrieved 2019-03-13. Now, she is believed to be waiting alongside fellow former IS brides British Shemima Begum and American Hoda Muthana in Al-Hol, a makeshift camp for displaced people in Syria and is hoping to come home to Australia.
  3. ^ a b c . Sky News. 18 February 2021 Retrieved 20 February 2021 – via Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e Louisa Loveluck, Souad Mekhennet (September 3, 2019). "At a sprawling tent camp in Syria, ISIS women impose a brutal rule". Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  5. ^ editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (2019-03-12). "Ministers urged to help UK families of foreign fighters in Syria". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2019-03-18. Retrieved 2019-03-18.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Bureau for Refugee Programs (ed.). "World refugee report 1992". US Department of State. p. 158. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  7. ^ Third World Institute, ed. (2005). The World Guide: A View from the South 2005/06. Oxfam. p. 533. ISBN 978-1-904456-11-7.
  8. ^ Mohsen Moh'd Saleh, ed. (2007). The Palestinian Strategic Report 2007. Beirut: Al-Zaytouna Center. p. 357. ISBN 978-9953-500-676. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  9. ^ "Syrian Arab Republic: North East Syria: Al Hol camp (as of 21 November 2019)". ReliefWeb. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  10. ^ Francesca Paris (2019-01-31). "WHO Warns Of Dire Conditions, Deaths Of Children At Refugee Camp In Syria". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2019-03-14. At least 29 children and newborns have died over the past two months in or on their way to the al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, the World Health Organization says, as the camp struggles to deal with cold winter conditions and an influx of displaced people.
  11. ^ "By the Beginning of April 2018, 24 Deaths of Typhoid were Recorded in the Camp, mostly Women and Children, Besides 269 Infections". Syrians for Truth and Justice. 2018-04-30. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  12. ^ "At least 84 die fleeing Daesh in Deir Ezzor in east Syria: UN". Arab News. Geneva. 2019-03-01. Archived from the original on 2019-03-02. Retrieved 2019-03-13. At least 84 people, two thirds of them children, have died since December on their way to Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria after fleeing Daesh in the Deir Ezzor region, the United Nations said on Friday.
  13. ^ "Flash Update 1: Displacement from Hajin, Deir-ez-Zor Governorate". UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2019-02-04. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-13. The camp currently hosts more than 35,000 people and has largely surpassed its maximum capacity. Since 22 January 2019, some 10,000 people have arrived at the camp, straining response capacities.
  14. ^ Romeo Langlois, James Andre (2019-02-08). "FRANCE 24 exclusive: The battle-hardened foreign jihadi brides trapped in Syria". France 24. Archived from the original on 2019-03-12. Retrieved 2019-03-13. Almost all of the women in the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria are foreign nationals who travelled to Syria at the height of the IS group’s so-called caliphate. They are held in a fenced-off area away from the other camp residents.
  15. ^ "After the caliphate: Has IS been defeated?". 2019-02-07. Archived from the original on 2019-03-23. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  16. ^ Sophia Evans (2019-03-08). "ISIS bride Shamima Begum's baby son 'dies in Syria'". The Mirror (UK). Archived from the original on 2019-03-09. Retrieved 2019-03-14. In recent weeks, Begum was said to have fled the al-Hawl camp with Jarrah to another squalid base after a 'price was put on her head'.
  17. ^ Bradley Jolly (2019-03-08). "Shamima Begum: Inside 'village of the damned' camp where pregnant IS bride lived". The Mirror (UK). Archived from the original on 2019-03-09. Retrieved 2019-03-14. Shamima was one of around 33,000 women and children who fled to the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria.
  18. ^ Eliza Mackintosh and Hamdi Alkhshali. "British ISIS bride Shamima Begum's baby died in Syria". CNN. Archived from the original on 2019-03-10. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  19. ^ Rukmini Callimachi, Catherine Porter (2019-02-19). "2 American Wives of ISIS Militants Want to Return Home". The New York Times. Al-Hawl Refugee Camp, Syria. p. A1. Archived from the original on 2019-02-20. She surrendered last month to the coalition forces fighting ISIS, and now spends her days as a detainee in a refugee camp in northeastern Syria.
  20. ^ "Syria's Al Hol Camp: Families in Desperate Need". 22 March 2019. Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  21. ^ "'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps". Archived from the original on April 21, 2019.
  22. ^ "'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps". Archived from the original on April 21, 2019. Asked about the Yazidi minority, which ISIS targeted with a campaign of genocide, the women shout: "Devil worshippers!" Misconceptions about the ancient Yazidi religion have led to dozens of massacres over the centuries. When ISIS took over a third of Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed or captured as sex slaves.
  23. ^ a b "Islamic State: The women and children no one wants". BBC. 12 April 2019. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-11-28. Retrieved 2019-12-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Kurdish-led authorities to remove Syrians from al-Hol camp". Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  26. ^ "The SDF Seeks a Path Toward Durable Stability in North East Syria". 25 November 2020.
  27. ^ "21 murders so far in 2021 | Iraqi refugee shot dead in "Al-Hawl mini-state" • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. 2021-02-20. Retrieved 2021-02-20.

Coordinates: 36°22′32″N 41°08′55″E / 36.3755°N 41.1485°E / 36.3755; 41.1485