Shamima Begum is in a “vulnerable position” as she finds herself still very much exposed to the dangers of a “possible” ISIS attack on her camp in northeast Syria, a Research Fellow specialising in women and minorities in the Islamic State has warned. The ISIS bride has been held in a Roj camp controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for internationally displaced people in Northeast Syria since she fled the terrorist organisation in 2019.
While the over 60,000 residents of the camps are protected by SDF and the international coalition, Dr Gina Vale told Express.co.uk that ISIS sleeper cells could launch attacks on the camps.
Asked if Shamima Begum is safe, Dr Vale said: “Physically, no. She is still in an active conflict zone in a very dependent and vulnerable position
“She’s not safe and secure.”
Ms Begum, who has fought to regain her citizenship since 2019, still faces the danger of an ISIS military insurgence in the Northeast Syrian camp.
“There are still Islamic State sleeper cells that may try and launch an attack against SDF forces or even try and do a large-scale jailbreak.
“Whilst I think for the camps containing women and children that is unlikely at this stage, it is still a possibility.”
ISIS sleeper cells have targeted the SDF forces on several occasions over the last few months, launching suicide attacks on security forces centres in Syria.
The latest one was recorded the last week of February when ISIS honed in on an area containing the headquarters of the SDF’s Internal Security Forces, anti-terrorism units, and a military intelligence prison where about 200 ISIS prisoners are housed.
According to an investigation by German TV news service Tagesschau, locals are now fearing new terrorist attacks could target Northeast Syria’s overcrowded camps which are home to over 60,000 people. The vast majority of them are women and children.
While Ms Begum is no longer under ISIS influence, there are still risks of ideological insurgence in camps where some women and children are “fervent, committed hardline supporters of the group” and in close proximity, Dr Vale said.
As a result, there have been cases of “intra-communal violence”, with women trying to establish their own “pseudo-Islamic courts” and imposing “violence punishments” against other women.
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In the first half of 2022, 24 deaths reported in the neighbouring camp of Al-Hawl in the city of Hasaka, Syria, were blamed on hardline ISIS women.
However, women’s lack of military training during ISIS reign over Syria and their lack of military capabilities in camps means the risk of internal resurgence within camps is “very low”, says Dr Vale.
She explained: “Whilst women were allowed to engage in militancy and combats towards the end of the group’s territorial reign, [fighting] was not their primary purpose.
“Without that male leadership and militancy, women’s possibility of leading a practical insurgence – I believe – is very low.
“That coupled with the fact that they are still effectively in a securitised setting and they are still detained. They are still disarmed and demobilised.”
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