ISIS Fighters Take Over Damascus Refugee Camp

This past week has been a mixed bag for ISIS and the forces fighting against it. The first news concerning ISIS came earlier this week and last week when it was announced that the Iraqi army, bolstered by Iran-supported Shiite militias, were moving against Tikrit. Tikrit was not only one of ISIS’ strongholds and one of Iraq’s largest cities, but it was also the birthplace of Saddam Hussein and so it has an interesting spot in the hearts and minds of Iraqis. However as good news began flooding in of Iraqi success in recapturing Tikrit, bad news began coming in from the other side of the conflict. It turns out that ISIS fighters have carved a path deep into Syrian territory and captured the Yarmouk refugee camp, once home to half a million Palestinian refugees (now home to about 18,000) driven from their homes due to the conflict with Israel.

bryan lockley, damascus

Damascus in Syria

This news is worrisome for a large number of reasons. The first is that it proves that ISIS is still a dangerous force to be reckoned with, regardless of its losses. It also shows how Syrian forces can’t seem to fight the militants effectively. Another reason this is bad news is due to how ISIS won control of the camp. Al-Nusra Front fighters who were once fighting against ISIS have switched sides and are now working with the so-called Islamic State. The linking of these two powerful groups could cause a real issue for those fighting against them. Another main issue with this is that now ISIS is in control of families that are destitute, feel abandoned by their governments and people, and have nowhere to go. These are the perfect recruits for the organization and there’s a real chance that their numbers will swell with new soldiers. Finally, this is the closest ISIS has gotten to the Syrian capital of Damascus and that puts extra pressure of the government of Bashar al-Assad who now needs to fight ISIS on his doorstep as well as the multiple rebel groups participating in the Syrian Civil War.

All of those negatives aside, we can’t forget about the refugees themselves. There’s a good chance that ISIS will embark on another series of mass executions against those in the camp due to differences in religion and a refusal to join up or convert. The group seems to have no sense of pity for those who don’t agree with their hardcore beliefs and will take it out violently on those who oppose them. The reports of fighting between groups in the camp and ISIS just makes this chance even greater, as does the fact that the refugees have been forgotten by the world and there is less of a chance that anyone will speak up about their deaths. What happens next remains to be seen, but ISIS needs to be stopped before it causes any more harm to people in the Middle East and around the world.

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