Syria: Fatal shooting of a child in al-Hol camp must be a call to international action

At least one child has been killed and three injured by the Asayish, the Syrian Kurdish Autonomous Administration’s police force, who opened fire in al-Hol camp yesterday, Amnesty International has confirmed. Three women were injured as well.

The Asayish, which controls the sprawling camp in Syria’s north-east and keeps it closed off to outsiders, has for unclear reasons opened fire on women and children inside the Annex, a section in the camp which hosts all women and children from third countries (other than Iraq), according to individuals with knowledge of the situation in the camp. 

“The death of a child in al-Hol sends a chilling reminder to the world of the harrowing conditions in which tens of thousands of children have been living for years. Shameful international inaction towards the fate of these children has consequences. In this case it has resulted in children being shot,” said Amnesty International’s Syria researcher, Diana Semaan.

“States with nationals in al-Hol must take meaningful action to end the horrors at the camp and repatriate the tens of thousands of children living there. Governments must stop ignoring their international human rights obligations and take all measures to uphold the right of every child to life, survival and development.” 

Amnesty International calls on the Autonomous Administration to launch a prompt and effective investigation into the shooting incident, release all children arbitrarily detained and end the practice of separating children from their mothers and caregivers. The international community must support the Autonomous Administration in protecting the lives and rights of children in al-Hol camp and ensure that Syrian children, their mothers and caregivers are able to return to safety.


Since 2019 when the conflict with the armed group Islamic State (IS) in Syria ended, around 60,000 Syrians, Iraqis and third-country nationals, mostly women and children, have been detained in al-Hol camp without access to due process, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The camp houses individuals with varying degrees of affiliation with IS, but also thousands of individuals with no association at all who flocked to the camp fleeing the conflict.

Over the past two years, children in al-Hol camp have been living in horrific conditions, without proper access to food, clean water, and essential services such as healthcare and education. The Autonomous Administration have been arbitrarily detaining twelve-year-old boys, separating two-year-old children from their caregivers, and curtailing access to healthcare. Increased child labour, violence and murder has severely impacted the growth and development of children.

In late January, hundreds of children held in an adult detention centre in Hassake were trapped with limited access to food and medical aid for 10 days during a crossfire exchange between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and IS. According to UNICEF, the children continue to be held in adult prisons and in dire living conditions.