ISIS Militants Break Out Of Syrian Prison Amid Turkish Bombing

A spokesman for Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria said that five ISIS members have broken out of prison in Qamishli city yesterday due to Turkish bombing nearby. Concurrently, women who were previously affiliated with ISIS at the Al Hol camp began an uprising where they attacked security forces with sticks and stones. SDF soldiers have been forced to leave their posts at these prisons in order to fight against the Turkish incursion occurring in the North. While some prisoners are from Europe, the majority come from Iraq or Syria, contrary to U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that “they’re going to be escaping to Europe.” There are various dangerous detainees held in prisons controlled by the Kurds, such as Adrian Guihal, the man responsible for the Nice attack that killed 87 people. 

 The State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Ambassador Nathan Sales, had warned this week that “destabilizing events” could “trigger the release of these folks,” referring to ISIS militants. “We’ve seen several attempted prison breaks over the last few months,” Sales continued. “None have been successful to date, but we don’t want to hope that our luck holds. That’s not an effective strategy.”

“The [ISIS] women rose against the internal security forces at al-Hol, they set ablaze tents and attacked the administrative and security offices there with stones and sticks,” Marvan Qamishlo, a military media official in the Kurdish-led SDF said.

“We already did not have professional jails or professional prisons to keep those prisoners in,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said. “The Turkish invasion to our region is going to leave a huge space, because we are forced to pull out some of our troops from the prisons and from the [displaced people] camps to the border to protect our people.”

“These terrorists would join the thousands that are already on the battlefield who are currently conducting operations and planning for prison breaks,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who has visited the Syrian facilities, said in a statement. “President Erdogan, despite his claims, does not have the support of the international community for this operation and he refuses to assure the US that he will guard ISIS detention facilities in the area and prevent ISIS from once again gaining a foothold in the region.”

Trump and Erdogan’s ignorance in regards to the future of Syria will inevitably cause more destruction and displacement of civilians. With Turkey’s main concern being the Kurds and Trump attempting to “reduce” the United State’s presence in the Middle East (despite pledging to send troops to Saudi Arabia), Syria has been hit with another intervention brimming with malevolent motives. The promise that Turkish troops would be able to take over these prisons is unrealistic insofar as Turkey continues to bomb these prison camps without troops on the ground. The destabilization has occurred too quickly to account for the civilians escaping and even less for the high-profile ISIS fighters that will most likely be sent back to do what they were captured for. The “pop-up” prisons themselves are vulnerable as they house up to 11,000 to 12,000 ISIS members in one place. The United States will now have to be responsible for additional thousands of Syrian refugees, a Kurdish genocide, and a possible resurgence of ISIS. In leaving the Kurds defenseless despite their success over ISIS, the United States once again shows that allyships come before anything else, even if an entire nation’s livelihood is at stake. 

Turkish forces have moved into Syria this week in order to clear the northern area from Kurds, an ethnic group which Turkey’s Erdogan pinpoints as a terrorist organization despite their various victories over ISIS. Throughout the Syrian War, the United States has backed the Kurds despite their being allies of Turkey. With this relationship threatening the U.S. and Turkey’s relationship, President Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, therby effectively giving Turkey the green light to fight Kurdish troops. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing since the incursion, and at least nine civilians have died since this initial attack. Captured ISIS fighters have been held in prisons and camps run by the Kurds in their ongoing fight against the terrorist group. In Al Hol, women affiliated with ISIS are contained in a camp. As a result of the fighting brought on by Turkey, SDF troops must go north to fight, leaving their posts and making uprisings within the camp and prisons more likely. 

This war has been driven by selfish motives by the intervening countries, and Turkey is a prime example. Ulterior motives for intervening have claimed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who were already displaced to begin with. The Kurds’ efforts in suppressing ISIS have been in vain, and now we face displacement of civilians and an uprising of ISIS once again. 


Kerent Benjumea