it was night when Zakia Kachar heard the sounds of footsteps approach her tent in a detention camp for foreigners affiliated with Islamic State group extremists. With rocks in their hands, the wives of IS fighters had come for her.
She fled with her children to another area of the Roj Camp in northeast Syria. “They wanted to kill me,” she said.
Earlier that day, the dual Serbian-German national had fought back in an altercation with a camp resident disapproving of her wearing makeup. The woman had bitten her, and Kachar slapped her in defense.
Such clashes between hard-line IS supporters and those who have fallen away from the group’s extreme ideology are exacerbating security challenges for the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which runs Roj and other camps for IS detainees.
The SDF had spearheaded the fight against IS, driving the militants from their last sliver of territory in 2019. Three years later, tens of thousands of foreign IS supporters remain in SDF-run camps and detention centers, with their home countries largely unwilling to repatriate them. The foreigners had come to Syria from around the world, some with their children in tow, to join Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate.”