Escaped Islamic State wives now raising funds to help free others
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
British female Islamic State (IS) suspects have been smuggled out of detention camps in north-east Syria, with some raising funds online to pay for further escapes, according to jihadist social media activity.
At least one British woman is among numerous European IS supporters who have broken out of Al-Hol camp to reach rebel-held Idlib, where they can freely recruit for the terrorist group.
In a recent video published to Telegram channels and Facebook pages devoted to crowdfunding for IS supporters detained by Syrian Kurdish forces, a woman identified as Maryam Al Britaniya “from UK” exhorts followers to donate money.
The video was filmed in Harim city near the Turkish border in Idlib, according to Bellingcat senior investigator Nick Waters.
The woman describes being smuggled out of a camp where she was detained for over a year after surrendering to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in fighting that killed her children. The western-backed group recaptured the last IS territory in March last year.
“Being sent out from the Islamic State to the camps was by far one of the worst moments of my life,” she says, her face obscured by a black niqab.
Since then, the Kurdish-led SDF has been left guarding prisons holding roughly 10,000 IS-affiliated men and nearly 70,000 women and children in the sprawling Al-Hol camp, with about 2,000 in the smaller Roj camp. “It’s obligatory on you to free them,” the woman in the video says, wagging a gloved finger.
“Help them and donate every month to help smuggle them out.”
Many western governments have ignored calls by the SDF and the United States to repatriate their citizens, leaving women and children in deteriorating conditions in which hundreds have died from malnutrition and disease.
With increasing numbers paying to be smuggled to Idlib, where some eventually plan to cross into Turkey, counter-terrorism experts warn that leaving them in limbo is a dangerous long-term strategy.
After Kurdish authorities recently started moving high profile European women and their children to a higher security extension to Roj camp, those remaining in Al-Hol have increased escape attempts and fundraising efforts.
“This is another sister from Al-Hol Camp,” reads a recent Facebook post in English by a female IS supporter.
“If she doesn’t leave soon, they will catch them and send them to the humiliation camp – Roj where it’s impossible to escape.”
With traffickers charging roughly €13,500 to smuggle a family out, a decentralised network of social media accounts is soliciting donations via PayPal or the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Among those caught trying to escape were twins from Manchester Zahra and Salma Halane, whom The Telegraph located recently in the new high-security extension to Roj camp.