Conflict

Syria: ISIS’ final stronghold left devastated after ISIS rule

Syria

The town of Hajin was the final major stronghold for ISIS in Syria before the group's defeat in December 2018. Now, its buildings bear the hallmark of ISIS' legacy: widespread damage, dilapidation and destruction.

The residents of Hajin are still walking atop the rubble that ISIS left in their town. Located in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zour Province, Hajin was captured from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on December 17th. This was considered a massive strategic defeat for ISIS as it was the largest urban area that remained in the group’s control in their so-called Wilayat al-Furat or Euphrates Province.

However, before evacuating the city due to the advancing forces and bombardment, the militant group destroyed many of the city’s infrastructures, carrying out scorched earth policies, leaving the city largely beneath the rubble.

According to the locals, the “Hajin School for Boys” was used by ISIS as a training base for militants who converted many of the schools and public buildings of the city into headquarters, administrative and zakat centres, and police stations. Given that the militant group’s most successful financial resources were zakat, the tax they imposed on locals, many zakat centres were placed around the city.

The militant group also seized many of the locals’ homes and gave them to the militants and their families, forcing the residents to seek housing elsewhere or escape the city. This, in addition to the harsh policies that ISIS enacted against the locals, has resulted in the mass exodus of thousands of citizens from Hajin to nearby areas and villages held by the SDF.

Following the militant group’s defeat as part of the SDF’s Jazira Storm Operation, the thousands of ISIS documents including militants’ ID cards and names of all enlisted militants were found in their administrative buildings.

This has allowed the SDF and other security apparatuses to gain further insight into the group’s operations during their time in the city.

The lists were also used by the SDF to cross-check the names of ISIS members who were attempting to escape with civilians.

With the defeat of ISIS now imminent in Syria, these documents will help the security forces find any remaining militants who are seeking to disrupt the stabilising security situation in Syria’s eastern provinces.