Photos: The prisons where remnants of Islamic State are held in limbo

In northeastern Syria, prisons and detention camps hold thousands of men, women and children whose lives are in limbo nearly a year after the final defeat of Islamic State to which they once belonged. The area around Qamishli city is mainly controlled by Kurdish fighters who helped defeat the Islamist militant group and now bear the brunt of looking after those captured as Islamic State collapsed, including hundreds of foreigners who fought alongside local militants to create a self-declared caliphate in the Middle East. A major concern is what to do with theses remnants of Islamic State, whose fighters came from various countries, many of which refuse to repatriate them.

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST 13 Photos
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Foreign prisoners, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, in a prison cell in Hasaka, Syria. In the country’s northeast, prisons and detention camps hold thousands of men, women and children whose lives are in limbo nearly a year after the final defeat of Islamic State to which they once belonged. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Foreign prisoners, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, in a prison cell in Hasaka, Syria. In the country’s northeast, prisons and detention camps hold thousands of men, women and children whose lives are in limbo nearly a year after the final defeat of Islamic State to which they once belonged. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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A guard opens a door inside a prison that holds foreign prisoners in Hasaka. The area around Qamishli city is mainly controlled by Kurdish fighters who helped defeat the Islamist militant group. They have since been pushed into a small pocket of northeastern Syria by Turkish-led forces who consider them a security threat. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A guard opens a door inside a prison that holds foreign prisoners in Hasaka. The area around Qamishli city is mainly controlled by Kurdish fighters who helped defeat the Islamist militant group. They have since been pushed into a small pocket of northeastern Syria by Turkish-led forces who consider them a security threat. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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A foreign prisoner with a bandage wrapped around his head, inside a prison hospital in Hasaka. Kurdish forces bear the brunt of looking after those captured as Islamic State collapsed, including hundreds of foreigners who fought alongside local militants to create a self-declared caliphate in the Middle East. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A foreign prisoner with a bandage wrapped around his head, inside a prison hospital in Hasaka. Kurdish forces bear the brunt of looking after those captured as Islamic State collapsed, including hundreds of foreigners who fought alongside local militants to create a self-declared caliphate in the Middle East. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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A Kurdish official shows passports of captured foreign IS fighters in Rimelan. What to do with the prisoners is a thorny issue for countries whose citizens went to fight with the group. Many European countries, for example, have hesitated to repatriate nationals, fearing public backlash. Europeans comprise a fifth of the roughly 10,000 IS fighters held captive in Syria. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A Kurdish official shows passports of captured foreign IS fighters in Rimelan. What to do with the prisoners is a thorny issue for countries whose citizens went to fight with the group. Many European countries, for example, have hesitated to repatriate nationals, fearing public backlash. Europeans comprise a fifth of the roughly 10,000 IS fighters held captive in Syria. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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Foreign prisoners, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, pray inside a prison hospital in Hasaka. Kurdish officials say they lack the resources to properly detain, investigate and prosecute the large number of prisoners as well as their families in camps. They have called repeatedly on foreign nations to take back their citizens. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Foreign prisoners, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, pray inside a prison hospital in Hasaka. Kurdish officials say they lack the resources to properly detain, investigate and prosecute the large number of prisoners as well as their families in camps. They have called repeatedly on foreign nations to take back their citizens. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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Prisoners suspected of being part of the Islamic State, in a prison cell in Hasaka. Reuters reporters saw more than 50 men lying head-to-toe across the floor of one cell, leaving virtually no room to move. Natural light was minimal and the air was heavy with the smell of sweat and dirt. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Prisoners suspected of being part of the Islamic State, in a prison cell in Hasaka. Reuters reporters saw more than 50 men lying head-to-toe across the floor of one cell, leaving virtually no room to move. Natural light was minimal and the air was heavy with the smell of sweat and dirt. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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Prisoners from Iraq and Syria in a prison's outside grounds in Hasaka. “We want to know what our fate is,” said Mahmoud Mohammad, an IS fighter from Syria held in a prison near Hasaka, south of Qamishli.”We don’t know anything about our families,” he told Reuters in an interview arranged and supervised by Kurdish security forces during a sanctioned visit. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Prisoners from Iraq and Syria in a prison's outside grounds in Hasaka. “We want to know what our fate is,” said Mahmoud Mohammad, an IS fighter from Syria held in a prison near Hasaka, south of Qamishli.”We don’t know anything about our families,” he told Reuters in an interview arranged and supervised by Kurdish security forces during a sanctioned visit. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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Women walk past a tent in al-Hol camp, Syria. “We don’t know if they’re alive or dead, in Syria or outside. I want to know my sentence and my fate.” Mohammad, whose nom de guerre is Abu Hamza, was one of nine men interviewed by Reuters in two prisons—one located near Hasaka and the other the town’s central jail. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Women walk past a tent in al-Hol camp, Syria. “We don’t know if they’re alive or dead, in Syria or outside. I want to know my sentence and my fate.” Mohammad, whose nom de guerre is Abu Hamza, was one of nine men interviewed by Reuters in two prisons—one located near Hasaka and the other the town’s central jail. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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A foreign prisoner on examining table next to a doctor in a prison in Hasaka. In a hospital on the ground floor, about 100 men crowded on to around half the number of beds suffering from ailments and injuries. Several were in orange jumpsuits, similar to those often worn by IS captives before they were executed. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A foreign prisoner on examining table next to a doctor in a prison in Hasaka. In a hospital on the ground floor, about 100 men crowded on to around half the number of beds suffering from ailments and injuries. Several were in orange jumpsuits, similar to those often worn by IS captives before they were executed. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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Abed El-Hamed Atiya, an Iraqi prisoner, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, sits next to a picture he drew inside a prison in Hasaka. Atiya is kept apart from other prisoners, some of whom strongly object to his art. Conditions in the prison near Hasaka, which used to be a school before being transformed to cope with the influx of captives, were markedly worse than those at the central jail. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Abed El-Hamed Atiya, an Iraqi prisoner, suspected of being part of the Islamic State, sits next to a picture he drew inside a prison in Hasaka. Atiya is kept apart from other prisoners, some of whom strongly object to his art. Conditions in the prison near Hasaka, which used to be a school before being transformed to cope with the influx of captives, were markedly worse than those at the central jail. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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Beyond the prisons, thousands of mostly woman and children are detained in camps in the area. The al-Hol facility in Hasaka province is the biggest and holds tens of thousands of people in a sprawling camp of white canvas tents that provide minimal shelter from the winter cold and rain. Children play on muddy paths and large puddles full of refuse collect in open spaces. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

Beyond the prisons, thousands of mostly woman and children are detained in camps in the area. The al-Hol facility in Hasaka province is the biggest and holds tens of thousands of people in a sprawling camp of white canvas tents that provide minimal shelter from the winter cold and rain. Children play on muddy paths and large puddles full of refuse collect in open spaces. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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A child held by a woman inside a shop at al-Hol camp. Women in black robes and niqabs move around in small groups, chatting or carrying out daily chores. Most women approached by Reuters for an interview declined and some were verbally hostile. One who agreed to talk did not give her name, but spoke in broken English and said she was originally from Hong Kong before coming to join Islamic State. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A child held by a woman inside a shop at al-Hol camp. Women in black robes and niqabs move around in small groups, chatting or carrying out daily chores. Most women approached by Reuters for an interview declined and some were verbally hostile. One who agreed to talk did not give her name, but spoke in broken English and said she was originally from Hong Kong before coming to join Islamic State. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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A woman holds hands with a child while walking through al-Hol camp. “I have one child and my husband died in Baghouz,” she said, flanked by her toddler son. The woman said she was in touch with her family in Hong Kong but did not want to return. “I know here the situation is very difficult. This is not home, it’s just a tent ... but we all live to (the wishes of) Allah, so God-willing, all is good.” (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

A woman holds hands with a child while walking through al-Hol camp. “I have one child and my husband died in Baghouz,” she said, flanked by her toddler son. The woman said she was in touch with her family in Hong Kong but did not want to return. “I know here the situation is very difficult. This is not home, it’s just a tent ... but we all live to (the wishes of) Allah, so God-willing, all is good.” (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 05:34 PM IST
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