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Daesh women crowdfund smuggler fees to escape SDF detention

British and other European female Daesh recruits are being smuggled out of detention camps in Syria, with some going on to raise funds online for others to do the same, according to Daesh social media networks. (AFP/Getty/File Photo)
A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AFP)

LONDON: British and other European female Daesh recruits are being smuggled out of detention camps in Syria, with some going on to raise funds online for others to do the same, according to Daesh social media networks.

Numerous Europeans have escaped Kurdish detention in Al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, and at least one British Daesh bride is now fundraising online to procure smugglers to free other detained women.

A recent video filmed in Idlib — the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria — and published on Telegram and Facebook showed the British woman, identified as Maryam Al-Britaniya, urging followers to donate money to help others escape.

“Being sent out from the Islamic State (Daesh) to the camps was by far one of the worst moments of my life,” she said, before describing conditions for other women who remain in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) camp.

“It’s obligatory on you to free them. Help them and donate every month to help smuggle them out.”

Other posts online in English, French, German, Russian and other European languages have been crowdfunding cash to allegedly help smuggle women and their families out of Al-Hol.

“This sister has to have the money by Friday, €1000 ($1,182) is still missing,” one post in German said.

Another, in French, read: “Only €3000 more is needed to free two of your sisters. Add this good deed to your balance, it may gain you entry into paradise.”

Smugglers charge roughly £12,000 ($15,785) to break families out of Al-Hol, and this money is usually paid via PayPal or Bitcoin.

It is not clear how many Daesh members have managed to escape, but footage of numerous failed attempts has been shared by the SDF, including that of British twins from Manchester, Zahra and Salma Halane.

Since Kurdish and Arab forces, under the SDF banner and backed by the US, defeated Daesh in Syria, they have been left guarding prisons full of thousands of fighters and their families.

Roughly 10,000 male fighters and around 70,000 women and children are detained in Al-Hol, including many Europeans, several dozen British women and up to 60 British children.

The SDF and the US have repeatedly urged European governments to repatriate their citizens, but those calls have gone largely unanswered.

Raffaello Pantucci, senior associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, said this makes Western security forces’ lives easier in the short term, but it is not a sustainable long-term strategy.

“The worrisome thing is, the longer we leave them stuck in this limbo, and with kids in tow, frankly the more radical they’re going to get and the greater the threat they might pose,” he added. “Bring them home and get them in court,” or “God knows where else they might show up.”

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