Kobani families fear worst for loved ones in ISIL prisons

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

Teenage boys from Kobani who were kidnapped by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' in 2014 pose for a photo after their release. [Photo courtesy of the 'Return the abducted people of Kobani' Facebook page]

Teenage boys from Kobani who were kidnapped by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' in 2014 pose for a photo after their release. [Photo courtesy of the 'Return the abducted people of Kobani' Facebook page]

Hundreds of families in the Kobani area in Syria are growing increasingly concerned about the fate of their loved ones detained by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

Families told Al-Shorfa they fear ISIL may execute their loved ones in revenge for the string of territorial losses it has suffered, including the areas around Kobani, Manbij and the Tishreen Dam.

Around 200 Kobani area residents have been detained or abducted by ISIL in the past two years, said Kobani native Ahmed Mohammed, who administers the "Return the abducted people of Kobani" Facebook page.

The page tracks news of detainees held by ISIL and communicates with their families, he told Al-Shorfa.

The names of many of the detainees have been documented with help from former detainees who were released from ISIL prisons in al-Raqa, al-Tabqa, Jarablus, al-Bab and Manbij, he said.

All the prisoners are civilians "whose only fault is that they are of Kurdish ethnicity and hail from the Kobani area", he said, noting that most were captured in areas controlled by ISIL while trying to depart the Kobani region.

Many were detained while trying to flee to Damascus or Aleppo, and others were rounded up in the city of Manbij.

Based on available information, he said, the detainees were thrown into the group’s detention centres in Manbij, al-Bab and al-Raqa.

Meanwhile, Mohammed said, the families of the prisoners are suffering.

"Their situation is dire due to the lack of information about their family members or parents, especially as many of the detainees are fathers or brothers who are responsible for supporting their families," he added.

As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied factions advance towards Manbij, ISIL has transferred detainees who hail from the Kobani area to its prisons in al-Tabqa, Maskanah and al-Ghandoura, said Syrian journalist and Aleppo-area activist Adnan al-Hussein.

In light of the many difficulties that ISIL is facing, he said, it is possible the group may conduct field executions to unburden themselves of the prisoners.

Teachers, students among detainees

Media activist and Kobani native Saleh Muslim Mohammed told Al-Shorfa that his brother-in-law, Abdul Qadir Zito, is one of prisoners.

"Zito was one of a number of teachers kidnapped by the group in 2014 on the outskirts of the city of Manbij as they returned from the city of Aleppo with a large number of students," he said.

ISIL kidnapped 153 Kurdish students, most between the ages of 13 and 15, on May 29, 2014, as they returned to Kobani after sitting their final exams in Aleppo city, Mohammed said.

Before this incident, he added, the group had kidnapped his great-nephew in rural Kobani, and there has been no news of his two family members to date.

Most ISIL detainees were abducted while heading to or returning from work, where "they had to go, despite the deteriorating security situation and dangers lurking for them, for the purpose of receiving their salaries", he said.

As they await news of their loved ones, he said, the families of detainees are haunted by "ominous feelings" and have serious concerns about what the group might do to them in retaliation for the losses it is suffering.

No reliable news

An atmosphere of uncertainty prevails among the families, who follow every new development on the ground and any thread of information that could reveal the location of the detention sites, Mohammed said.

"They have not received any reliable news or reports since the detentions", he said, noting that all the news they have comes from former detainees who can confirm the presence of detainees in many areas but not their names.

Kobani resident Hisham Hussein told Al-Shorfa that his 32-year-old brother, Farhad Imam Mahmoud Hussein, was kidnapped on February 19, 2014, in Tel Abyad while traveling from Turkey to Iraq to look for work.

His brother "was kidnapped in the Alia area along with 151 other people, of whom 60 were released by the group and the rest remain in captivity", Hussein said, adding that a former ISIL prisoner in al-Raqa city assured him his brother had been imprisoned in al-Raqa.

His brother’s wife and two sons have moved to the Kurdish region in Iraq, Hussein said, adding that he has been supporting them despite his limited means.

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