AL-HOL, Syria — Like a flock of ravens, the women hover around the food supplies, their black burqas fluttering in the breeze. But even through the narrowest of eye slits, their origins can be distinguished. Africans, Asians, Europeans and Arabs, they span the continents. The ethnic constellation of children around them might offer further clues, but these are the wives and widows of Islamic State fighters now sheltering at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Some have borne offspring from multiple husbands from multiple countries, and now they are on their own.
"My identity card was stolen by the other women. My children will starve. We don't have a tent,” quavers a slight female with slanted dark eyes. “Please help me explain my situation to the camp authorities, I don’t know how to communicate with them,” she begs as a little girl with thick brown lashes and cherry lips clings to her side. She is 30-year-old Mahina Muradaleva from the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. Muradaleva was married to two Islamic State fighters. “The first was killed in an airstrike. The second one disappeared,” she told Al-Monitor through a Russian interpreter. Both men were Tajiks.