Sinam Sherkany Mohamad is the Co-Chief of the US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council in Washington DC. She represents the Syrian Democratic Council to the United States. She is a Kurdish woman from Afrin, Syria.

Dangerous ISIS terrorists have staged a horrific prison break attempt in al-Sina’a, near Hasakah, North and East Syria in the past few days. As a result of the violence, 27 members of our Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and local security forces were killed. We thank all who took up the struggle. We deeply honor the sacrifice of these martyrs in the ongoing struggle to protect all of us from ISIS terrorism. My heartfelt condolences to their families and those they left behind.

The ISIS detainees got help from ISIS members on the outside, many of whom came from the Turkish-occupied areas of North and East Syria. The prison break attempt was quelled, but some ISIS members are believed to have escaped into the general population. The escapees are currently being pursued by the SDF.

Let us hope that ISIS members do not succeed in a large-scale prison break, which could lead to more atrocities in the Middle East, the West, Europe – or even the United States.

The US military offered air support during the prison break attempt, complementing our ground forces as they fought. We thank the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS for their very worthy efforts. However, more support is needed for SDF, local security forces, and the region if we want to effectively end ISIS, and if we want to be sure that the next prison break attempt will not succeed.

The world celebrated the so-called “defeat of ISIS” in March 2019, when the SDF overran the last ISIS stronghold in al-Baghouz, Syria. Since then, tens of thousands of ISIS members have been in a holding pattern in detention facilities in North and East Syria. Our local officials have called again and again for international support in managing these detainees, repatriating them, and giving each one a free and fair trial, but so far very little help has come. The SDF has strived to provide humane conditions for all detainees at detention camps and prisons such as al-Howl, where ISIS members gather, eat, and pray together each day, plotting the return of the so-called ISIS “caliphate” and planning more violent attacks.

Is ISIS defeated, in reality? Is ISIS a thing of the past? Ask the families and communities of these 27 courageous martyrs. These martyrs are service members who fought heroically to defend people in Syria, the West, and the world against terrorism.

The biggest support to ISIS has been Turkey. Turkey has actually been supporting ISIS since at least 2014, as ISIS members began streaming through Turkey into Syria to participate in their violent and bloody power grab. This past week, Turkey staged an attack on the civilians in Ain Issa, Syria, at the same time that the ISIS prison break attempt was occurring. It has the appearance of seeking to distract the public from the news about ISIS.

The ISIS members that SDF has been faithfully detaining since 2019 are from 50 different countries. These countries have largely abrogated their responsibilities and refused to repatriate their own citizens. Rather than take their own citizens back, countries left the SDF to deal with them. Now ISIS detainees have shown this new determination to escape. If they were separated, sent back to their home countries, given a free and fair trial, and offered rehabilitation programs, much of their momentum could be slowed. But so far, the SDF has been left to deal with the scourge of ISIS largely on its own.

Even if the rest of the world has forgotten, these ISIS detainees are convinced that they are only one prison break away from the ISIS “caliphate” they took up arms for. 

Let this prison break attempt show that the SDF urgently requires more support in order to hold these dangerous detainees. More logistical assistance to the detention facilities themselves is needed. The region of North and East Syria, which only a few years ago was captured by the merciless black tides of ISIS, should be offered reconstruction aid and recovery funding, so that the conditions that led to ISIS extremism – economic deprivation, lack of opportunity, and hopelessness – won’t be present. Our region needs economic support to avoid further ISIS extremism. Other countries must work to facilitate repatriation efforts. The international community must step up efforts to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, before the next prison break attempt, which could unleash the ISIS armies upon us all, in all parts of the world.

The international community must pressure Turkey to come into compliance with basic humanitarian law. The policy of Turkish support for Islamic extremism must be ended. We must demand that Turkey withdraw its forces from North and East Syria and stop its attacks and violent interventions into Syrian affairs.

The 27 martyrs who perished this past week fought to protect all of us from the perils of ISIS. May their deaths not be in vain, but remind us of what we must fight against, and fight to protect.