Amnesty: US-Backed Kurds in Syria Are Running Torture Prisons Responsible for ‘Mass Death’

The US is 'involved in most aspects of the detention system' that was set up in eastern Syria following the defeat of ISIS

US-backed Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria are responsible for torture and “mass death” due to inhumane conditions at detention facilities that were set up after the defeat of ISIS, Amnesty International said in a new report on Wednesday.

Amnesty said that the US is “involved in most aspects of the detention system,” which holds more than 56,000 people, including 30,000 children, 14,500 women, and 11,500 men.

The Kurdish authorities, officially known as the Autonomous Authorities of the North and East Syria Region, include the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US’s main partner in Syria. The majority of those in custody were detained in 2019 when ISIS lost the last significant piece of territory that it had.

Amnesty said many of the women are victims of human trafficking and forced marriage to ISIS members, and many detained boys and young men are victims of ISIS’s child recruitment. The report said other ISIS victims are being held in the facilities, including as many as hundreds of Yazidis.

Amnesty interviewed people who were held in the camps who detailed the torture they experienced, which included beatings, stress positions, and electric shocks. “I was given electric shocks. I was pregnant at the time. The [interrogator] knew, he told me: ‘I am going to force you to have a miscarriage’, and that’s what he did,” one woman said.

The Amnesty report detailed how the US has funded and supported the detention facilities. “The US-led coalition, with funding from the US Congress, has refurbished existing detention facilities, constructed new ones, and frequently visits them. The US Department of Defense has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to the SDF and affiliated security forces,” Amnesty said.

Former detainees said that the “combination of physical abuse, inhumane conditions and lack of medical care caused outbreaks of disease and other health conditions, and led to the deaths of hundreds of people.”

Back in January 2022, there was a prison break at one of the facilities in Hasakah. A major battle ensued, and the US gave air support to SDF fighters on the ground. According to US Central Command, more than 420 suspected ISIS members and 120 SDF fighters were killed in the battle. A 17-year-old Australian boy who was in the prison at the time of the battle told Human Rights Watch that he estimated 15 to 20 children were killed. The boy said he was injured by a US Apache helicopter strike.

By backing the SDF, the US is able to maintain control of a section of eastern Syria that’s about one-third of the country’s territory. The US also has about 900 troops deployed in the area, which is where most of Syria’s oil and gas fields are located. The government in Damascus is strongly opposed to the US presence, making it an illegal military occupation.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.