The latest developments in the Ghwayran prison and the eponymous residential neighborhood in Syria’s northeastern city of Hasakeh are alarming. Fierce battles have been raging between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which control the city, and the estimated 3,000 ISIS terrorists (leaders and members) jailed in the prison.
The SDF leadership said that “the attack on the Ghwayran prison was executed by 200 ISIS members, some of whom were recaptured,” noting that the investigations indicate that “the plan to attack the prison has been in the works for six months.”
Interestingly, the statement issued by the authorities in Hasakeh said they were confronting “unknown” militants besides ISIS fighters.
So far, some 136 ISIS members who broke out have been recaptured, while dozens are still on the run. The real number of prisoners who managed to escape is still unknown. Sources from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights insist the number of escapees is in the hundreds.
Just like in Syria, other dangerous incidents have also been taking place in Iraq. Recently, 11 Iraqi soldiers, including one officer, were murdered in the Al-Azim district of the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, following an attack by the terrorist organization.
Also, at the end of December, ISIS groups published a video clip showing the slaughter of Yasir al-Jurani, an officer at the Iraqi Interior Ministry and head of the Passport Authority in al-Aazamiyah, following his kidnapping in Diyala.
Is this rebirth of ISIS in Syria and Iraq a spontaneous outburst or a well-devised plan?
Who are the unknown soldiers fighting the SDF in Hasakeh and the Ghwayran prison and neighborhood?
Perhaps ISIS’ acts have the fingerprints of regional and maybe even international intelligence agencies. Whether all ISIS members or only the elite leaders know about that does not matter.
There is no doubt that the Syrian and Iraqi scenes are tempting for many states with contradictory interests. History and retrospectively revealed facts have taught us not to believe everything we see.
Otherwise, how could we fathom that the Iranian regime, which takes Khomeini’s thought as a springboard for its perception of the world, could coordinate with al-Qaeda and facilitate its job? This issue is not even up for debate anymore, but rather a plain truth (where is al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel, for instance?)
I advance all these intelligence and political motives to say that despite all the above, we must not assume that the rhetoric of ISIS and al-Qaeda has lost its ability to tempt and attract Muslim youth to join their hell in the Ghwayran prison and Al-Hawl camp in Syria, among others, under the guise of pious hope. This dark belief often pushes them to give their souls in sacrifice, for what higher sacrifice could there be than sacrificing oneself?
Even if we realize just how politically dirty the elite leaders of these terrorist gangs that disguise themselves as Islam can be, we must not underestimate the attractiveness of the ideology promoted by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the like.
What happened in Hasakeh should be enough to sound the alarm.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.