Syrian opposition opens detention camp for Daesh defectors

While some Daesh defectors have been released in coordination with foreign embassies, other detainees could face trial and execution for their crimes.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Abandoned Daesh flag left on a motorbike following a defeat to Syrian regime forces in Palmyra.

A Syrian opposition group in the country’s northern Idlib province has set up a secret internment camp for defectors from the Daesh terrorist group, according to a report published on the BBC website.

The camp reportedly holds around 300 detainees, including a significant number of foreign fighters from Europe.

Having lost around a quarter of the territory it captured in the past three years across Syria and Iraq, Daesh is now on the back foot on numerous fronts.

As international efforts to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul begin to take shape, more and more Daesh fighters are surrendering before the group’s probable defeat.

The report says that the former Daesh fighters being held at the camp are undergoing rehabilitation.

Mohammad al Ghabi, the commander of the group operating the camp, told the BBC that the number of detainees was growing thanks to a Turkish-backed offensive against Daesh in northern Syria that was launched last month.

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces recently took control of a strip of land stretching from Azaz to Jarabulus in northern Syria from Daesh.

Daesh “has been falling apart for the past seven or eight months, according to the defectors we spoke to,” Ghabi said, adding that Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield had “further degraded” the group and led to its “dismemberment.”

Ghabi heads the Jaysh al Tahrir group, which operates as part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Written off as a mere loose alliance of local brigades lacking central command until recently, the FSA has been gaining ground against Daesh in a northern stretch of land adjacent to the Turkish border since the operation was launched.

While the group being held in the camp come from a wide range of backgrounds, the BBC report stated that French, Dutch and Polish nationals were among the detainees. Some of the European detainees who wished to go home were released in coordination with their embassies, Ghabi said, but others could be tried and executed for their crimes.

Defections are becoming an evermore common trend for Daesh as they rapidly lose territory across Syria and Iraq.

One detainee, a Dutch citizen going by the name of Abu Sumail, said he arrived in Syria to join Daesh in 2014, but soon became disillusioned with life under the self-proclaimed “caliphate.”

"They treat us very bad, especially people from another country,” he said. "It's very hard for us to live there - it's not our lifestyle because we are used to a lot of things and then we come there and they directly start to treat you hard.”

"You give your life to them so they are going to start to take control of your life. They use you for bad stuff.”

The former Daesh fighter also said he is looking forward to returning to the Netherlands and living a normal life again, but is aware that he will have to “pay for the price” of his choices.

His dilemma is one faced by many foreign fighters who joined Daesh and now regret their decision, as they face imprisonment if they return.  

Abu Sumail added that many Daesh fighters want to leave the terror group, but they cannot.

“They cannot leave because of the secret service of this group, they don’t let nobody go,” Abu Sumail said in his broken English.

“Many people, from the beginning, they try to leave, but they got caught. They gonna get put in prison. They gonna get a last chance, if you try to leave next time, we kill you. That’s what make me leave.”

TRTWorld and agencies