Life After ISIS: Revisiting Baghouz and Al-Hol Refugee Camp
11 May 2019
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. In April, I and some of our team spent time visiting friends and seeing the aftermath of ISIS in Baghouz. We had good meetings with Christian leaders in Qamishli and then continued to Al-Hol the next day.
Al-Hol is a refugee camp that now holds over 73,000 people, mostly ISIS families. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are doing a good job caring for these people even though the needs are great. These people fled Baghouz earlier this year as the SDF and coalition forces worked to defeat ISIS there.
Baghouz was the final ISIS stronghold in Syria, a village on the Euphrates River just a couple kilometers from the Syria-Iraq border. From Feb. 1 until March 9, our team worked with the SDF to help those fleeing the stronghold. We were able to feed over 25,000 people, provide medical care for over 4,000 who were wounded, and pray with whoever we could. The people who fled would come to us first as they waited for transportation north to the refugee camps. Men were transported to detention centers and women and children went to the refugee camps.
Just over one month later and inside of Al-Hol, we were able to again meet with and pray with ISIS wives and encourage them to call on Jesus’ name. Two of them cried as we prayed. We also met many who are still filled with hate and anger. One even cursed us. Among the camp’s population are thousands of children caught in an evil situation and facing an unknown future.
ISIS is not the only opposition in the camp – others do not want us to share about Jesus. In spite of the opposition, we have been told by SDF staff that we are still allowed to do a children’s program in the camp and so we pray for that.
As I wrote in an earlier letter, on my heart is a beautiful, young, 26-year-old Swedish mother of two children, ages five and three. Lisa is slowly dying in Al-Hol camp. Her parents who visited her said Lisa is very sick and her skin is just hanging from her bones. They fear she will die if she does not receive the needed medical care. They have no idea what compelled their daughter to join ISIS. They said they were hurt and angry with her and they carry the evil deeds of ISIS on their conscience. Yet, when, with the help of the SDF, they saw her in the camp, all they felt was love – love for her and their grandchildren. Each child is from a different father, both of whom were killed, one after the other, in the waning days of ISIS.
We thank God, the SDF, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the Swedish government that seven orphaned Swedish children have been released back to their Swedish grandfather. There are many more foreign children and mothers in this camp. All governments should be willing to bring these people home to face justice. We need to ask, “What if these were our children, what would we do?”
FBR still feels called to help in places where access is difficult and where there is a humanitarian gap, such as to the over 100,000 IDPs trapped in Shabah between Aleppo and Afrin – Shabah camp. Working with the small, local churches and with the SDF, we will keep trying to help there and other areas as God leads.
Below are photos from our time in Al-Hol and visiting what remains of Baghouz. Thank you again for praying with us as we go.
Dave and FBR
Wounded children who escaped from Baghouz.
ISIS grenades found in Baghouz.