In the expanse of northern Syria, a multitude of former IS militants find themselves confined within heavily fortified prisons. Amidst this challenging environment, a burgeoning generation of potential jihadists is maturing, their futures shaped by the tumultuous legacy of the Islamic State.
February 2023 marked a seismic event that thrust northern Syria back into the global spotlight, an area that had long languished in relative obscurity despite once serving as the stronghold for the notorious terrorist organization, IS. Despite its military defeat, the region poses a potential resurgence point for IS, carrying profound international implications.
Filmmaker Kawa Akrawi delved into the heart of northeastern Syria’s autonomous and democratically governed enclave in 2022. In “Rojava,” as the Kurds refer to the region, the filmmaker witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by the predominantly Kurdish population. The Kurdish militia YPG, backed by U.S. forces, engaged in a fierce battle against IS until 2019, resulting in thousands of casualties among the fighters.
Following the triumph over the IS caliphate, the region became home to the largest prison for IS fighters globally. Additionally, it houses expansive camps dedicated to the wives and children of jihadists, many hailing from Western countries whose governments have shunned repatriation.
Within these sprawling camps and prisons, concerns arise about the emergence of the next generation of jihadists. Newroz Ehmed, representing the SDF General Command of the military alliance, asserts that while IS may have been territorially defeated, its ideology and organizational remnants remain active—an explosive situation exacerbated by the immense challenges faced by security forces in controlling the facilities.
Complicating matters further, Turkish President Erdogan’s prolonged conflict with the Kurds in northeastern Syria has led to the displacement of tens of thousands, with accusations labeling the YPG as a terrorist organization. Drone attacks on the “Rojava” region persist, intensifying the region’s instability.
Amidst these adversities, Kurdish leaders grapple with the pressing question of safeguarding themselves, neighboring nations, and the West from a potential IS resurgence. Plans must be devised to address the presence of Islamist fighters and their indoctrinated offspring, who, raised in camps, risk evolving into fervent and ruthless combatants.
Directed by: Kawa Akrawi