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Reeking Corpses Litter Final ISIS Holdout, Survivors Living Off Grass

Reeking Corpses Litter Final ISIS Holdout, Survivors Living Off Grass

Thursday, 7 March, 2019 - 09:15
Women fleeing Baghouz town, east Syria | AP
Baghouz- Asharq Al-Awsat
Shuddering at the memory of the stench of dead corpses, escapees fleeing the last ISIS stronghold in eastern Syria recount the horrors they lived during their final days in al-Baghouz town, before being evacuated by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led amalgamation of Syrian factions.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, survivors recalled how Syrian civilians were forced to eat grass and drink from the Euphrates River amid battles and airstrikes waged to end ISIS rule in the town.

Some five kilometers north of Baghuoz, men were seated on the ground in a tight fashion, with a new batch arriving at the spot every once in a while. Later, they were ordered to walk slowly towards a checkpoint for inspection. Organizing their flow into inspection is an American soldier positioned in proof of heavy deployment of US Special Forces, armored vehicles, and SDF fighters who had cordoned off the area.

Upon a closer look, it is clear that the men being probed are foreigners including Asians, Russians, Westerners, and Arabs of different countries.

Even though they come from different cultural backgrounds, all the men looked nearly identical with their darkened skin, thickened beards, and overall rugged appearances. They were either dressed in long brown or black robes over their clothes and wore hats over their heads.

These foreigners had thousands of kilometers to get into embattled Syria, where they sought to fulfill their extremist ambitions while living in ISIS’ self-proclaimed caliphate. But at this point, such hopes were dashed as they were rounded up, awaiting their fate which would be decided by SDF units and the international committee.

At first, they undergo a physical inspection and get their identities checked and then have their fingerprints and personal information taken.

On the other hand, women and children are transferred to al-Hol camp in the north, while the men and young people suspected of being ISIS members are put in private cars, transferred to centers, where private investigations are conducted, and later are taken to prison.

It is worth noting that women of ISIS fighters, dressed in black from head to toe, hail mostly from Maghreb region countries, Arab countries, namely Iraq, former Soviet Union countries such as Russia, Chechnya, and Indonesia, as well as from Western countries such as France and Belgium.

“I am here because of my late husband’s decision to travel to Syria in 2013. At the start, he fought alongside Al-Nusra Front, an ex-Qaeda affiliate that rebranded as Hayaat Tahriri Al-Sham (HTS). But after fierce clashes erupted between Al-Nusra Front and ISIS, he switched sides, joining the latter,” a 27-year-old widow from Tajikistan told Asharq Al-Awsat while being evacuated alongside her four children from Baghouz.

Evoking her plight and harsh experience, Asma said: “For months on end we haven’t felt stable or safe. I carry a small bag with me in which I put some clothes for my children, but I’ve been wearing the same black garb for a while now.”

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