UN official: 700 people died in Syrian camps for Daesh families

The UN counterterrorism chief said his office received information that 700 people died recently in two camps in northeast Syria. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2020

UN official: 700 people died in Syrian camps for Daesh families

  • Vorontsov told a news conference Thursday that the people, including children, died of “lack of medicine, lack of food” at the Al-Hol and Roj camps
  • The overcrowded camps have a high child mortality rate

UNITED NATIONS: The UN counterterrorism chief said his office received information that 700 people died recently in two camps in northeast Syria, where more than 70,000 mainly women and children connected to Daesh fighters are detained in “very dire conditions.”
Vladimir Vorontsov told a news conference Thursday that the people, including children, died of “lack of medicine, lack of food” at the Al-Hol and Roj camps, which are overseen by Kurdish-led forces allied with the United States who spearheaded the fight against Daesh.
He said the deaths in the camps created “feelings of anger.”
Vorontsov did not clarify when the 700 reportedly died or what the source of the information was. The Kurdish Red Crescent said in January that 511 people died in the largest camp, Al-Hol, in 2019. The overcrowded camps have a high child mortality rate. So far, there has been no known outbreak of coronavirus in the camps. A UN team visited the largest one earlier this month.
Vorontsov urged the international community to tackle “the huge problem” of what to do with these people, saying keeping them in camps “is very dangerous.” He warned that “they could create very explosive materials that could be very helpful for terrorists to restart their activities” in Syria and Iraq.
Daesh, which once controlled large swathes of Iraq and Syria, lost its last Syrian strongholds in early 2019. But despite the loss of its self-styled caliphate, UN experts said earlier this year that the extremist group is mounting increasingly bold attacks in Syria and Iraq and is planning for the breakout of its fighters in detention facilities.
In addition to the Al-Hol and Roj camps, the Kurdish fighters are guarding thousands of Daesh fighters and boys in prisons.
After Daesh militants lost control of the oil-rich northeast, Turkey invaded areas along its borders last October and now controls slivers of land in the very complex region. There are tensions between the Turkish-allied fighters and Kurdish groups, which Ankara considers terrorists. In addition, hundreds of US troops remain in northeast Syria.
The International Crisis Group reported on April 7 that there are 66,000 women and children in Al-Hol and 4,000 in Roj, most of them relatives of Daesh extremists, “but some former affiliates of the group themselves.” The Brussels-based think tank said that the majority are either Syrians or Iraqis, with the numbers roughly split, and around 13,500 are from other countries.
The group said humanitarian workers described the detention sites “as ridden with tuberculosis and perilously overcrowded, with one speaking of `dramatic mortality rates’.”
Vorontsov said “no country would like to have these people back, with this very negative and very dangerous terrorist background.”
But he said there are about 9,000 children and the first priority should be to save those under 6 years old, “because in this period of time children are absolutely not in the position to be indoctrinated.”
Vorontsov said the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, which he heads, is pushing the issue very strongly with countries whose citizens are detained. Only a small number are repatriating their citizens, including Central Asian countries, the United States and Russia, he said.
Women are “a more difficult story,” Vorontsov said.
There are “victims of terrorism” who didn’t understand what they were doing when they accompanied the men in their families to Syria and Iraq, he said, “but there are a lot of radicalized women among detained people in camps.”
Vorontsov said he believes the way forward is to prosecute the women and then rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society, but he conceded that it’s “a very challenging issue.”


Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

Updated 21 October 2020

Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

  • El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus

CAIRO: A tripartite summit was held on Wednesday in the Cypriot capital Nicosia between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, along with Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis.

The summit, the eighth between the leaders of the three countries, focused on discussing means of cooperation and coordination regarding issues of concern. 

Bassam Rady, the spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said: “The tripartite summit was held to evaluate the development of cooperation among the three countries in various fields, and to follow-up on joint projects currently implemented as part of the trilateral cooperation mechanism.”

Rady added that the summit also sought to “exchange visions on means of facing the challenges in the Middle East region.”

El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus, saying: “We have decided to counter acts of provocation and violations in the Middle East.”

He indirectly accused Turkey of committing violations, transferring mercenaries to conflict zones, and blackmailing Europe with the issue of immigration.“We have signed the founding charter of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, the president said: “We reject any foreign existence on Syrian territories.”

Meanwhile, the Cypriot president stressed that Turkey was causing more tension in the area, jeopardizing regional stability, interfering in the Syrian crisis, and sending mercenaries to Libya and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Anastasiades said: “We underlined the need to take strong measures against those who support militant and terrorist groups in the region.” He pointed out that the trilateral relations were not against any state, but rather aimed to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. 

He also called on Turkey to respect international laws and not to violate Cypriot sovereignty.

“We discussed means of enhancing tripartite cooperation in various fields especially energy,” he said. “We welcome the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added, whilst reiterating the need to stop the flow of illegal immigration via the Mediterranean.

The Cypriot president also described Turkey’s hunt for gas in Greek waters in the Eastern Mediterranean as “illegal.”

Meanwhile Mitsotakis said that the practices of the Turkish leadership were unfair to its people. “We don’t want to exclude Turkey but its practices lead to that action,” he warned.

This is the eighth such tripartite summit between since 2014. It coincides with Greece’s calls on the EU to consider suspending the Customs Union Agreement with Turkey.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias delivered a letter to the European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyito, to consider the measure as a response to Turkey’s repeated violations of the agreement, in addition to its unilateral measures of gas and oil excavations in the Eastern Mediterranean.