By Sivan Gamliel
After a 10-day standoff at the al-Hasakah Prison in Geweran, Syria, an ISIS plot to overrun a prison administered by Syrian Kurds was reportedly thwarted, and the prison is now back under the control of Peshmerga Forces. The standoff began as ISIS fighters raided the prison while their comrades inside rioted, holding up to 600 children – the so-called cubs of the caliphate – as hostages.
More than 120 Peshmerga fighters and Syrian Kurdish prison workers were killed in the incident. The emergency prompted the Kurds to renew their appeal to the international community to take responsibility for the ISIS terrorists from Europe, Africa and Arab lands – in particular the children who are as young as 12, although AP reports as young as 8 – being held in the prison.
Over two dozen detention facilities are under Kurdish control scattered around northeastern Syria. Reports indicate they are holding 10,000 ISIS fighters including some 2,000 foreigners. That foreign contingent – 800 of them Europeans – have never been brought to a court to face charges.
Kurdish writer Ranj N. Tofik stated in an interview that the attack, regardless of the outcome, boosted the morale of ISIS: “Even though their attack was not successful as planned, that indicates ISIS has become strong again. That was the most organized operation of ISIS taking place since 2019.”
Tofik also warned that it will be an uphill struggle for the Kurds to assume full responsibility for the imprisoned ISIS terrorists all by themselves. They receive nothing more than logistical support from America, who has largely withdrawn from the region: “Preventive actions to avoid or obstruct ISIS returning to power is not an easy process because military operations alone cannot prevent ISIS. There are other interrelated factors to prevent that threat which are economic, political, cultural, and social incentives. It also requires international and regional cooperation.”
He added that this assistance is especially essential, as he claimed the Iranians are helping ISIS:
“Iran, despite its sectarian differences with extremist Sunni groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS, has some common interests with those groups, such as using these groups against America and Israel, or to spread its influence in the region and create pressure on the governments of the region through these groups. It is possible that Iran, through the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, uses ISIS to put pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government. This helps ISIS to maintain its existence.”
For example, “There may be an Iranian regime conspiracy against the Kurdistan region to make the KRG make some concessions because the Popular Mobilization forces are the main factor behind the security vacuum that is under the control of Iran,” he claimed. “Moreover, these ISIS attacks were simultaneous with the attacks of the Popular Mobilization Forces. There have been several land missiles and drone attacks by the Popular Mobilization forces on the capital city of Kurdistan (Erbil).”
However, the radical Islamist threat for the Kurdish people extends beyond Iraq. Kurdish historian Kamal Saidou noted that 96% of the population of the Afrin region in Syria used to be Kurdish.
Syrian jihadists “forced most of Afrin’s Kurds to leave their homes. They were replaced by radical Islamists. Now, Afrin is only 25% Kurdish.”
Ali Asghar Faridi, a Kurdish journalist based in Germany, recalled: “More than one hundred positions in Afrin were bombed, among them hospitals. Historic monuments were destroyed. People were massacred, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, displaced, had their property confiscated and were robbed. This was all in violation of international law.”