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Last update: September 2020

This profile refers to (perceived) members of ISIL, individuals with familial links to ISIL, as well as civilians who resided in territories controlled by ISIL.

COI summary

ISIL is a UN- and EU-designated terrorist organisation. The group began capturing territory in Syria in 2013, which attracted an international US-led coalition military response. Since September 2014, the US-led Global Coalition Against Daesh has carried out military operations against ISIL and other targets in Syria [Actors, 1.2.2]. By August 2017, the coalition conducted over 11 000 airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria. Turkey has conducted ground operations against ISIL since 2016. GoS forces also fought against ISIL, reclaiming territories such as Palmyra, while Russia claimed airstrikes on ISIL targets. Detained ISIL fighters and their families in north-east Syria number more than 100 000. [Security 2020, 1.4.6]

The Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria comprise most of the territory that was previously under ISIL control in Syria and which sources considered ‘the main theatre for ISIS’s insurgency’. [Targeting, 6.2]

SDF/YPG arbitrarily detained and indiscriminately killed civilians during anti-ISIL raids. SDF was responsible for raids, arrests and forced disappearances. IDPs settled in Raqqa, Hasaka and Deir Ez-Zor governorates were particularly targeted by SDF, whom it accused of ISIL affiliation. The informal detention centres for ISIL fighters and affiliates were reported to be severely overcrowded and lacking adequate medical care. Thousands of wives and children of ISIL fighters were also held in makeshift camps where the living conditions were reported to be deplorable [Targeting, 3.2]. The Al Hol camp in Hasaka governorate hosts more than 66 000 persons, around 96 % of whom are women and children. Because of their familial links to ISIL, they have reportedly suffered discrimination at the hands of SDF forces, as well as harassment, denial of healthcare, restricted movement due to security considerations, and looting. [Security 2020,]

In 2015, the YPG established the terrorism court - known as the ‘People’s Court’ - to prosecute ISIL fighters and affiliates. The court has judges and prosecutors lacking judicial training, who often come from different professional backgrounds, such as architects, construction workers, bakers or auto mechanics. 

The Kurdish authorities were reported to have tried thousands of Syrian ISIL suspects in flawed proceedings.  The Kurdish People’s Court tried and sentenced 7 000 ISIL suspects and other 6 000 were awaiting trial. The Kurdish authorities’ approach to prosecution of ISIL fighters was described as uneven, with some fighters being freed or given light sentences, while other wait years for a trial. Defence lawyers for cases of ISIL fighters were reportedly not available due to fears of retaliation from ISIL cells. Kurdish authorities handed out reduced sentences to ISIL members who have surrendered to them or released them as part of reconciliation deals brokered with tribal leaders. [Actors, 3.1.4]

SDF regularly claims to arrest ISIL affiliates, but it has been accused of arresting civil activists involved in the uprising against the Assad government. There were several incidents of arrests of local activists and humanitarian workers in Raqqa governorate under the accusation of ISIL affiliation. [Targeting, 3.2]

YPG forces were reported to be engaged in razing of villages, confiscation of property and forced displacements of people in retaliation for perceived affiliation or sympathies to ISIL or other armed groups during anti-ISIL operations in Hasaka and Raqqa governorates carried out in 2015. [Targeting, 3.2]

Those considered to be affiliated with terrorist groups such as ISIL can be denied entering in reconciliation agreements with the GoS [Recaptured areas, 2.5.3]. However, GoS has on several occasions struck deals with the group and participated in the evacuation of its members. In May 2018, ISIL soldiers and their families were evacuated from Yarmouk Camp and Hajar al-Aswad in Damascus to areas that were then under ISIL control in the desert in Badia [Recaptured areas,].

The Syrian Penal Code envisages the death penalty for terrorism-related offences, including terrorist acts and the financing of terrorist acts, regardless of whether such acts result in death or not. However, little information is available about death sentences passed and there is no information on executions. [Actors, 2.2.3]

Risk analysis

In itself, the prosecution of the criminal acts of the insurgents and their targeting in accordance with the rules of international humanitarian law do not amount to persecution. However, certain acts to which persons with perceived links to ISIL could be exposed could be of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. forced disappearance, death penalty, killing).

For perceived members of ISIL and those perceived to have familial links to ISIL members well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.

In the case of civilians who resided in territories controlled by ISIL, not all individuals would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, in particular the perceived level of support for ISIL.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that, persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.

   Exclusion considerations could be relevant to this profile (see the chapter 6. Exclusion).