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Interview with Dutch researcher on al-Hol Camp

Bestoon Khalid conducted an interview with Peter Knoope, a fellow at The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) and a former member of African National Congress (ANC), on June 3, 2022 asking him about the risks al-Hol camp hold for the stability of the region and the ways to deal with the threat.

Knoope was in Erbil to attend a conference about the reasons behind extremist radicalization, and how best to prevent it. During the interview Knoope shared his thoughts on the issue and warning of the threat that the camps in northeast Syria (Rojava) pose to the stability of the Middle East, and the world.

Discussing the threat of radicalization among those in Rojava's al-Hol and Roj camps, many of whom are affiliated to Islamic State (ISIS) militants, Knoope stressed the negative impact that their isolation will be having on their outlook, with no connection to the outside world.

Seventy percent of the camps' population of around 70,000 people are under the age of 18, Knoope said. "They are all descendants of ISIS fighters, and the stories, the narratives, inside that community is 'ISIS, ISIS, ISIS', anger, frustration, and the situation, the conditions, are dire," he warned. "People kill, people die ... the situation in humanitarian terms, and in security terms, is dire."

"The recruiters are active inside the camp," he warned, describing the area as a breeding ground and an incubator. "It is where the next generation is being educated," Knoope added. "It is a big threat, it is a big security risk, not just for your region but ... a security threat to the whole world."

A UN delegation visited al-Hol camp on Sunday in an effort to assess the conditions on the ground, pushing for greater repatriation of Iraqi citizens from the camp and warning, yet again, of the "desolate" conditions. Since the beginning of the year, the camp has bore witness to at least 18 murders.

Citing the approach of Nelson Mandela, Knoope expressed his view that reconciliation between victims and perpetrators is vital for establishing long-term peace. "Put victims at the center, and let them talk about their grievances and experiences, and let them talk directly to the perpetrators ... and ask them for forgiveness ... 'to tell me what you've done' ... and then you make up, you put conditions on the return of these people, set by the victims."


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