Joining Daesh was a disastrous mistake, say former female members

Children peer from the gate of Al-Hol camp in Syria. (AP/File)
Updated 23 April 2019

Joining Daesh was a disastrous mistake, say former female members

  • Many in the camps remain die-hard supporters of Daesh
  • The women insisted they had not been active Daesh members and had no role in its atrocities

AL-HOL CAMP, SYRIA: The women say it was misguided approach, naivety, a search for something to believe in or youthful rebellion. Whatever it was, it led them to travel across the world to join Daesh.

Now after the fall of the last stronghold of the group’s “caliphate,” they say they regret it and want to come home.

The Associated Press interviewed four foreign women who joined the caliphate and are now among tens of thousands of Daesh family members, mostly women and children, crammed into squalid camps in northern Syria overseen by the US-backed Kurdish-led forces who spearheaded the fight against the extremist group.

Many in the camps remain die-hard supporters of Daesh. Women in general were often active participants in Daesh’s rule. Some joined women’s branches of the “Hisba,” the religious police who brutally enforced the group’s laws. Others helped recruit more foreigners. Freed Yazidi women have spoken of cruelties inflicted by female members of the group.

Within the fences of Al-Hol camp, Daesh supporters have tried to recreate the caliphate as much as possible. Some women have re-formed the Hisba to keep camp residents in line, according to officers from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces guarding the camp. While the AP was there, women in all-covering black robes and veils known as niqab tried to intimidate anyone speaking to journalists; children threw stones at visitors, calling them “dogs” and “infidels.”

The four women interviewed by the AP said joining Daesh was a disastrous mistake. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces gave the AP access to speak to the women at two camps under their administration.

“How could I have been so stupid, and so blind?” said Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old Canadian woman who surrendered herself to the SDF earlier this year.

The women insisted they had not been active Daesh members and had no role in its atrocities, and they all said their husbands were not fighters for Daesh. Those denials and much in their accounts could not be independently confirmed. The interviews took place with Kurdish security guards in the room. To many, their expressions of regret likely ring hollow, self-serving or irrelevant. Traveling to the caliphate, the women joined a group whose horrific atrocities were well known, including sex enslavement of Yazidi women, mass killings of civilians and grotesque punishments of rule-breakers.

Their pleas to return home point to the thorny question of what to do with the men and women who joined the caliphate and their children. Governments around the world are reluctant to take back their nationals.

The SDF complains it is being forced to shoulder the burden of dealing with them.

Al-Hol is home to 73,000 people who streamed out of Daesh’s last pockets, including the village of Baghouz, the final site to fall to the SDF in March. Nearly the entire population of the camp is women or children, since most men were taken for screening by the SDF to determine if they were fighters.


Bashir defense asks Sudan court for bail release

Updated 54 min 8 sec ago

Bashir defense asks Sudan court for bail release

  • Bashir, wearing a traditional white gown, sat in the same metal cage he appeared in on Monday when his trial on graft charges opened
  • The former Sudanese leader is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over his role in mass killings in the western region of Darfur

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s deposed military ruler Omar Al-Bashir appeared in court Saturday for the second hearing of his corruption trial, during which his defense asked for his release on bail.
Bashir, wearing a traditional white gown, sat in the same metal cage he appeared in on Monday when his trial on graft charges opened.
The judge in Khartoum Saturday heard three witnesses, two of them investigators who searched Bashir’s residency after his ouster and the other a banker.
“We ask the court to release the accused on bail,” Bashir’s lawyer Hashem Abu Bakr said, to which the judge answered he would examine a written request.
After the hearing, as a massive security convoy escorted the 75-year-old Bashir back to prison, two opposing groups of demonstrators had gathered.
One group of a few dozen protesters were chanting slogans for Bashir to face justice not just over corruption but for his role in the the country’s deadly conflicts.
“Bashir is a killer” and “He has to face justice,” chanted some of the demonstrators.
Another smaller group had turned out in support of the deposed Islamist general, who was forced from power by relentless protests in April after 30 years in power.
While the sight of Bashir sitting inside a cage in a courtroom was unthinkable only months ago, many in Sudan and abroad have warned that this trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces.
The former Sudanese leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over his role in mass killings in the western region of Darfur.