'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps "The women and children who have been raised on the mentality of ISIS and terrorism need to be rehabilitated," an official warns. "Otherwise, they will be the foundations of future terrorism."
NPR logo

'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/714652629/716873141" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

'We Pray For The Caliphate To Return': ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/714652629/716873141" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

To Syria now, where even though ISIS has lost its territory, you can still hear some voices calling for it to rise again. And they come from some of the women and children in giant detention camps - the wives and children of ISIS fighters. The situation poses a huge problem for the world - what to do with these thousands of people.

NPR's Jane Arraf reports their beliefs might just be getting stronger as they remain in limbo.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is the al-Hol camp. It's a combustible mass of more than 70,000 people, many of them hungry, sick and, for these women who have lined up for three days for food, furious.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: There's a large group of women waiting here who say it was never like this in what they call al-dawla - the state. They say they lived there happily for five years despite the brutality it was notorious for.

They tell me everything was better under ISIS. They say there were rules there - no bribery, no theft. No one was better than anyone else. When there was food, it was distributed. Here, they come every day to be told there's nothing for them, to be humiliated, they say.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: Many of them are among the 30,000 Iraqis in this camp. Most came out of the last sliver of ISIS territory in Syria in March. They won't give their names.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Through interpreter) If it weren't for their airstrikes on our tents and camps killing our children, we would not leave the caliphate. This is injustice. We pray for ISIS to come back.

ARRAF: All of the women are covered head-to-toe in black cloaks that trail in the mud. A few have covered even their eyes in a black, gauzy veil. They wear long black gloves.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: Theirs is a vengeful God. One tells me God will punish them for waiting in line for food instead of praying.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: Another tells me God decrees that even having a finger showing is as immoral as having sex outside of marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: They tell me I need to cover like them, that I'm an infidel.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: "Convert, convert" they tell me. We mentioned the part of the Quran that says Christians and others are people of the book who actually should be respected rather than killed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) If she became Muslim and covered like us and became a member of our religion, she would not be killed, no.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: We ask about the Yazidis, the religious minority in Iraq who were the victims of ISIS genocide, thousands of them killed and taken into sexual slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: "Devil worshippers," they shout, a mischaracterization of their ancient religion that has led to dozens of massacres over the centuries.

SANGAR KHALEEL, BYLINE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: My colleague Sangar Khaleel says to them, you're Iraqi, and I'm Iraqi. Did the Yazidis deserve what happened to them? One of the women answers...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: (Through interpreter) If they don't convert to Islam and they don't become Muslim like us and worship God, then they deserve it.

ARRAF: Is there anything that the dawla did wrong? Or was the dawla perfect?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: The women say everything - everything there was what God wanted. In the dawla, they say there was no blasphemy. There was no music, no wearing tight clothing or men smoking those cigarettes and even tweezing their eyebrows, no men looking at women.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: These Iraqi and Syrian women don't understand why their husbands have been taken away to prison. They ask why the men can't join them. The Iraqi government says it plans to repatriate their women and children, to put them in camps in Iraq. But the Kurds who are holding them in this underfunded camp say they won't send anyone back who doesn't want to go. So for now, they're not going anywhere.

Foreign ISIS families at a smaller camp were given lectures on how ISIS is not Islam. Some even hear from former Yazidi slaves about what ISIS did to them. There are no similar programs here for Syrian and Iraqi ISIS families, and there are very few in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: These women and girls say they're here because ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told them to escape, to safeguard the next generation of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: (Through interpreter) We came here because of the hunger, so the children wouldn't die, so you wouldn't kill us.

ARRAF: In fact it's a girl from the Iraqi city of Tikrit, one of the ones who was telling me to cover, who sounds the most fervent. She's probably 10 or 11.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: (Through interpreter) The ones who are not covered now, I ask God in the next life to light the fires of hell with their hair.

ARRAF: Another girl tells us on Judgment Day, God will pour molten metal in the ears of those who listen to music.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: The girls say they went to school under ISIS, but they won't go to school again until the caliphate returns. They all believe it's just a matter of time. Jane Arraf, NPR News, in the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.