Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Tal Afar reach Peshmerga forces after fleeing home.
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – At least 800 suspects and convicted felons charged with connection to ISIS including many teenagers have been imprisoned in Duhok prisons of which 320 have received their sentences by court.
“Duhok prisons are packed with ISIS suspects,” Hamdi Barwari, head of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization – Duhok Branch, told Rudaw. “Right now 500 ISIS suspects are detained in Duhok prisons. Besides, 350 were tried and sentenced. After their trial, it turned out some of them were ISIS militants and some others had helped the group.”
There are even Kurds among the convicted felons, but “none of them were the group’s militants, but that only assisted them,” he explained.
Among the alleged felons, Barwari said, “there are still 50 teens proud of being ISIS.”
He explained the type of sentencing for those convicted depends on their crimes.
“The ones directly involved in ISIS crimes have received death sentences and the least punishment is a five year jail term, and that applies to those who had indirectly backed the group or showed support to the group through social media platforms,” Barwari said.
Some of the convicted felons were captured on the battlefields during their fight against the Peshmerga. While others disguised themselves as refugees and came to the Kurdistan Region within the influx of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the war-ravaged areas, especially ISIS-held Tal Afar and Mosul.
Kurdish security forces have arrested 100 ISIS militants and supporters among IDPs arriving in the Kurdistan Region from Tal Afar in June alone.
“IDPs who came to Duhok in the beginning of the Mosul operation were mostly women and children because the men believed in ISIS and some of them even carried weapons to them,” an official told Rudaw on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. “But recently Tal Afar men IDPs are outnumbering the women, leading to suspect they might have been ISIS militants trying to hide themselves within the IDPs. “
“Some of them confess very soon they were ISIS, but left the group,” he said. “Of the 100 arrested in June alone, five were women and fifty teens. Even some of them were ISIS emirs.”
One of the main challenges facing courts is none of the ISIS suspects have lawyers, so they are afforded Kurdish lawyers to provide a legal defense. According to the law, the court provides lawyers for suspects during trial and the lawyer’s fees will be allocated by the government.
“It is very hard to defend an ISIS suspect in court, but this is law and we only fulfill our legal duties as lawyers,” said Hajar Subhi, a Kurdish lawyer who has provided legal defenses for five alleged ISIS militants.
Subhi described his own feelings.
“When I actually remember ISIS crimes, I am having the most unpleasant feeling when defending an ISIS militant,” he said.
The legal process in the Kurdistan Region is being put through the paces, as the courts judge those charged with ISIS-related offenses.
In one case, a 44-year-old Arab man was heading to court.
“I am not ISIS. My 12-year-old son was ISIS. I am arrested because of my son,” the father testified.
The Arab man then told the story of his son joining ISIS.
“Our house was in a village around Tal Afar. My 12-year-old son used to go to the mosque. ISIS militants had talked about fight and jihad to him,” he said. “One day an ISIS militant informed me that my son was with them and that they had trained him, preparing him for jihad.”
He said his son had stayed with ISIS just for four days and now is also jailed.