There are two distinct types of women in Syria’s detention camps: those that claim to have travelled willingly to the Islamic State and those who say they followed blindly. The first of them appear to have few regrets, the others plead ignorance.
The British among them divide neatly between the two.
“Some of the women here believe in Isil ideology, I can promise you I am not one of them,” Nassima Begum, a 29-year-old mother-of-four from London, told the Telegraph during a recent visit to one of the camps.
“My husband didn’t want to stay in the UK, he wanted us to live in an Islamic country. The plan was to go to Saudi Arabia but then he decided on Syria.
“I had no choice but to follow him,” she said.
She claimed to have been a housewife, who “couldn’t even point to Syria on a map” when the family moved here in 2012 – before Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s caliphate was declared two years later.
Then there are also those more reluctant to talk, out of fear, perhaps, of implicating themselves.
Reema Iqbal from Newham, east London, is less forthcoming about how and why she came to be in Isil-held Syria.
She left her home in June 2013 with her Portuguese husband and sister Zara, 28, who is now being held in a nearby camp.
Reports suggest her husband Celso Rodrigues Da Costa, a former Harrods sales assistant, appeared in Isil propaganda videos and was a member of a notorious cell involved in the kidnapping and murder of western hostages.
“The security services came to speak to me and I was honest, I told them my whole story so now it’s up to them to judge,” she said.
The only thing they both have in common is that they want to return to the UK. Their children miss London, they said, life is hard here.
In total, there are thought to be 7 British women and 15 of their children across two camps in Syria after they fled from Baghouz, the village where Isil is fighting to the last.
Inside the caliphate in its heady days, foreigners enjoyed a certain level of comfort and had the respect of those they ruled over. Inside the camps it is a living hell.
Some 35,000 people are crammed into al-Hol camp, whose population has ballooned in recent weeks as civilians and the families of Isil flee the crumbling caliphate.
The camp – which is run by Syrian Kurdish authorities with the help of international charities – is dire even by the standards of Syria. Without enough latrines, children defecate in the open. Women fight over boxes of aid.
Many hundreds are forced to sleep out in the open as there are not enough tents to go around.
More than 50 children have died since December, either in the camp or making their way to it. Weeks of living in a besieged area coupled with a lack of resources, has left women and children severely malnourished and vulnerable to hypothermia.
A fight breaks out in the queue for food parcels, Reema Iqbal accuses another woman of cutting in line.
“There’s not enough food for bigger families,” says the mother-of-two, who lost her husband in fighting. “It’s a prison here, but we’re serving no sentence.”
There is likely to be little sympathy for them, but lawyers say they have a right to a fair trial.
So far they have not been charged with any crime but are being held, in some cases for more than 18 months, on suspicion of links to Isil.
The women must wait in limbo as the British government makes a decision on their fate. It has taken a tougher stance than most.
Authorities have refused calls from their Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies to repatriate them and in the cases of some male suspects, revoked their citizenship.
Word has spread round the camp and the women fear they will never return home.
“If I face court, fine,” says Iqbal, "but take me back to the UK, that’s where I’m from.”
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