The al-Hol camp in north eastern Syria is an overflowing vessel of anger and unanswered questions. Inside are the lost women and children of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), abandoned by their men, their nightmare caliphate and their governments.
Some cling to their hate-fuelled ideology: “We are undefeated!” they scream in your face. Others beg for a way out – a way home.
While western governments prevaricate, their children die.
Umm Usma, a Moroccan-Belgian woman, clings to a fantasy that she helped the women and children of Syria in her six years here, most of it with IS.
The former nurse grabs her niqab with a black-gloved hand, “This is my choice,” she says. “In Belgium I couldn’t wear my niqab – this is my choice.”
“Every religion did something wrong,” she said. “Show us the good.”
As she shouts with a group of other black-clad women, a badly burnt child is pushed in a buggy through the mud by his mother. “Look at what they did,” her mother shouts, referring to US-backed forces.
Al-Hol is a nightmare, a camp that has grown from 11,000 people, to more than 70,000. It is swollen with the dark aftermath of the…