Relatives and advocates of Australians stuck in a Syrian refugee camp for wives and children of Islamic State fighters, are urging politicians to act immediately to bring them home as a Kurdish deal with the Syrian government sparked panic.
Kamalle Dabboussy, whose daughter and grandchildren are being held in the al-Hawl camp, also revealed two more Australians have been identified in the camp as a result of the increased media attention.
He said there details about them were scarce, but they were very frightened.
Relatives have also released recordings from two Australian women trapped in the al-Hawl camp, pleading for the Australian government to help them before Syrian troops move in.
Sahra Ahmed and her three young boys have been stuck in the al-Hawl camp since March.
“I’m so scared, I don’t know how much longer I can do this for,” Ms Ahmed says in a voice recording sent to her aunt Sonya Abbas.
“They just found a woman’s body in the toilets, she was all mutilated and cut up.”
Sahra Ahmed is among more than 60 Australian women and children in the al-Hawl camp which holds about 70,000 wives and children of IS fighters.
Sonya Abbas been lobbying the Australian government to bring back Ms Ahmed and another 10 of her relatives in the camp.
“Bring them home, judge them here. Don’t let them die like that,” Ms Abbas told SBS News on Tuesday.
Conditions have deteriorated since the withdrawal of US troops cleared the way for Turkey to launch a military offensive on rival Kurdish fighters.
Kurds have controlled the camp up until now, but after being abandoned by the United States, they are focussed on defending their territory rather than managing IS camps.
They are expected to hand over management of the al-Hawl camp to troops loyal to the Assad regime which has shown no mercy to IS fighters.
Fearing for her life under the Syrian government, another woman has also begged for help.
“Please don’t let us fall into the hands of the [Syrian] regime. Everybody in the world knows the war crimes this guy does,” the unnamed woman says in a recording shared by Kamalle Dabboussy, the father of one of the women in the camp.
“We’re asking just as humans, just as regretful people. If this happens that’s it for us. That’s it for my kids.”
While Kurdish fighters have been cooperating with Australian families and government officials on the release of foreign citizens, it’s unclear how the Syrian government will treat them.
The new conflict has reshaped alliances in the region, prompting the Kurds to form a rushed agreement with Russia-backed Syrian forces.
IS fighters have also seized on the chaos launching several attacks with a senior official at the camp telling SBS Arabic24 that women loyal to IS in the camp were using basic materials to make bombs.
At least 750 people affiliated with the terrorist group are believed to have escaped a camp in Syria’s north-east.
While the Australian government has expressed deep concern about the Turkish military offensive, it has not committed to bringing back its citizens.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week said the Morrison government won’t speed up the evacuation of Australians from the camp, citing the dangers that would be posed to Australian officers that would have to be sent in.
There are also concerns some women remain loyal to IS and pose a security risk to Australia if brought back.
Government has days, not weeks, to act
Mr Dabboussy is in Canberra with representatives of Save the Children trying to meet government ministers and officials with the power to intervene.
Despite the escalating conflict, he said it is still possible to safely get the Australian women and children out.
“The camp is still under Kurdish control, the border crossing is still open, action can still be taken but I think that’s a situation of days rather than weeks,” Mr Dabboussy told reporters in Canberra.
Save the Children acting CEO Mat Tinkler said the first step would be to transfer them to border towns like Qamishli or Derek and onto Iraq.
From there, he said, further negotiations about how to handle their repatriation could be undertaken in relative safety.
Amid concerns the group may pose a security risk if they returned to Australia, Mr Dabboussy said 46 of them were children, with half of them aged under the age of five.
He said his daughter was coerced into going, like many of the other young women.
“They’ve all been groomed, duped, coerced, and that’s my understanding. No one has brought me evidence to the contrary and if something exists, then due process can be undertaken.”
Meanwhile, a young boy has become the first Australian from the camp to be taken to hospital at an unknown location in Syria.
Mr Dabboussy said the boy was suffering potentially life-threatening stomach problems.
“We’re trying to ascertain their location and whether or not they’re in danger,” Mr Dabboussy told SBS News on Tuesday.