With simple equipment, in a women’s salon in the city of Tabqa in Raqqa Governorate, Um Imad, 25, is engaged with hairdressing women after spending long years in the Hawl Camp with her two children.
The exceptional situation in the camp prevented Um Imad to continue a profession which she used to manage before being admitted to the camp, as she put it.
Um Imad is a mother of two children, 14 and 8 years old. She left the camp under sponsorship of tribal leaders following long years of hard life under a tent that could protect her from neither the heat of summer nor the breeze of winter.
Um Imad’s husband was killed in a raid against the Islamic State (ISIS) when he was serving within the ranks of the radical group when it controlled the city.
No longer ISIS
After leaving Hawl Camp along with her two children Um Imad has a strong desire to have a safe life for her two children far away from her husband’s involvement in the terrorist group’s affairs. “My only wish is that my children succeed in their studies.”
Um Imad depends on the salon to provide for her family, though it is short of their needs. Her elder son sought a job in carrying items in the market to give a hand of help to his mother. Um Imad aspires to develop her job in the salon to lead a better life. Through her profession Um Imad has been able to reintegrate into the society after being an detainee in the Hawl Camp.
“I have made friends in the city. I want to lead a peaceful life,” she said.
Releasing Um Imad and others from the camp and re-integrating them into society was not easy but rather required joint efforts by many parties.
In mid-summer 2021, local, social and civil committees were formed under the name of “Dispute Solving Committees”. It was made up largely of tribal leaders and activists of civil society organizations in Tabqa, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. Last February, those committees initiated a campaign under the name “Among your Relatives” to re-integrate ISIS-related families returning from Hawl Camp into society based on tribal sponsorships.
Hassan al-Khamri, a member in a Tabqa committee, says their committee works on different issues according to needs of those families leaving Hawl Camp including economic, health, social and administrative issues.
He added that they also work on admitting children to schools and securing voucher cards, given by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), that get these families gas, bread and heating diesel since these families are faced with difficulties in maintaining these items in both the city and the countryside.
Al-Khamri says their committees play the role of a mediator between ISIS families coming from the camp and the AANES, civil society organizations and the NGOs. In this relation, the committee contacts civil society organizations and NGOs to secure needs as well doctors and hospitals in case of any illnesses. Such committees are on good terms with the AANES to solve other problems related to enrolling children at schools.
Member of the committee in Tabqa says the AANES facilitates their work in order to meet success and re-integrate those people into society. However, “The AANES and civil society organizations cannot alone take the mass problem to the shore of safety, it needs an international support from the UN bodies and supporting programs from humanitarian organizations,” as he put it.
Those committees and nearly 14 local societies documented 2,062 families left the Hawl Camp towards Tabqa, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa based on tribal sponsorship system that was adopted in the Ain Issa tribal forum held in the town of Ain Issa in 2019 paving the way to exit Syrian families held in the camp.
According to al-Khamri, the campaign aims at de-stereotyping the perceived image of families that were part of ISIS and to facilitate their integration into society anew far away from the ideology that swept the region when the group was controlling large swathes of territory. This has pushed him to prepare and carry into action civil projects by an international support to re-integrate those families into society.