May 24, 2019

What Remains of ISIS?

“A few days before the collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate, I visited one of the new “pop-up prisons” that had been hastily converted to hold thousands of surrendering isis fighters in Syria. The numbers wildly exceeded all expectations, including estimates by U.S. intelligence. The most striking sight at the prison entrance was a mound of human hair lying on the raw concrete floor. Clumps of it—some brown, some graying, most of it greasy or matted—had been shaved off the heads and faces of fighters before they were taken to group cells. “Lice,” one of the guards told me.

The prison at Dashisha, in eastern Deir Ezzor province, had been an oil-storage facility. In just four days, the compound of modest brick and stucco buildings had been filled with fifteen hundred fighters from countries on four continents, including France, Libya, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, and the United States, the warden told me. Average-sized rooms had been fitted with metal doors; each cell had a small barred window that I had to stand on my tiptoes to peer through. Each one was crammed, wall to wall, with dozens of men squatting on the floor. The isis fighters wore new T-shirts, in army green, and whatever trousers they had on when they were captured.

After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges: there are tens of thousands of captured isis members whom no nation wants to repatriate, and the local militia holding them has neither the resources nor the personnel to keep them indefinitely. More than five thousand isis fighters surrendered in the final month of fighting alone. Thousands more were captured earlier in the conflict. They’re dispersed among the new pop-up prisons in northeast Syria. A few hundred of the most severely wounded are in a small hospital, with the foreign fighters crowded in its basement for security. The hospital stench was overwhelming, even through a mask. “Sepsis,” a medic told me. Between December and March, another sixty-three thousand family members of isis fighters—wives enveloped in black niqabs that cover their faces, and bedraggled young children—also poured out of Baghouz, the last isis redoubt in Syria. They’re held separately, most in tents, at a dusty, malodorous camp in al-Hawl that already held ten thousand. The prisons, the hospital, and the camp are all bursting.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The results were surprising. The center-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, remained in power against the opposition Labor party, which had led in every poll for years."

"Anger seldom works against Trump; he owns the currency and can always issue more of it. In addressing the rogue President directly, or speaking about him in the third person, Pelosi usually adopts a tone that is more sorrowful than angry..."

"I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews."

"Kids are exposed to plenty of controversial social issues on a daily basis. And if parents don’t want their kids to watch “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” they can turn off the TV."

"Are public-school teachers really underpaid? It’s a claim often made during teacher pay disputes, but the same data and statistical methods that produce the “teacher salary gap” lead to some ridiculous conclusions..."

"Tech companies are getting into the business of making cities. We need to stop Silicon Valley social engineering before things get even worse."

"Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life: Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government."

"“What name . . . shall we give to the darkness of hell...?” The question of how we can name a place such as this is at the center of scholar Scott G. Bruce’s new anthology The Penguin Book of Hell."

"She had all six of her kids — ages 5, 4, 2 (twins) and 10 months (also twins!) in her 10-seater van. To get the kids a quick snack, Curry parked in front of the Cobbler’s Café."

"Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they grew up typically eating dinner at a kitchen table, but a little less than half said they do so now when eating at home."

"If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground?"

"While American Jewish women face attacks on our freedom and rising anti-Semitism, abortion opponents are appropriating Jewish history in order to push an agenda that hurts women."