Terrorism & Insurgency

Conditions and tensions at refugee camp in Syria's Hasaka will likely create an incubator for Islamic State ideology

30 July 2019

Key Points

  • Numerous incidents at the Al Hawl refugee camp in Syria’s Hasaka governorate have demonstrated the residual Islamic State sympathies of family members of fighters resident at the camp.
  • Although the conditions at the camp will likely continue to incubate these sympathies, and despite the reported presence of the Islamic State’s morality police, it is unlikely that the camp will be a centre of insurgency.
  • Islamic State fighters and their families who were relocated to areas in Deir al-Zour and Raqqa – areas with weak governance and historical Islamic State support – pose the greatest insurgency risk.

The town of Al Hawl in Syria’s Hasaka governorate was initially designated as a refugee camp for Iraqi refugees who fled across the border following the first Gulf War in 1991 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The camp, however, was closed down in 2013 when the Islamic State captured it as it made rapid territorial gains across eastern Syria. According to a 30 April 2018 article published by pro-opposition organisation Syria for Truth and Justice, the Kurdish-led Qiwaat Suriyya al-Dimoqratiyya (QSD), or Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), later reoccupied the town in 2016 after capturing it from the Islamic State, and reopened the camp for Iraqi refugees escaping from continued sectarian violence. The camp has received a great deal of international attention given that it contains many foreign nationals allegedly associated with the Islamic State.

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