IS brides' utopian fantasy has ended in de facto imprisonment
21 February 2019, 21:19 | Updated: 22 February 2019, 12:13
It was quickly clear to me that time spent in a special camp reserved for the family members of Islamic State is a form of punishment – and their sentence has already begun.
The camp is called al Hawl and people who are trying to run it - the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - are doing their best to keep more than 42,000 recent arrivals fed and accommodated.
Both civilians and those associated with IS have been brought here as the extremists retreat onto a small slither of land on the banks of the Euphrates River.
For the 1,555 foreigners in that camp - the women and children of IS - home is a rocky patch of ground where basic provisions are scarce and contact with the outside world is basically non-existent.
At the IS section's padlocked gate, I was met by camp residents who were both curious and angry.
A woman from Trinidad said in a rising voice: "I would like to hear Trinidad's view on the people who are here.
"There are over 90 Trinidadian children in Syria. Ninety kids. Do they care? Are they concerned? That is (all I have to say)."
Then, a teenager from France shuffled over and told me her name was Elise. Her mother had taken her to Syria when she was 15 years old, she said.
"I just want to know if France will take us (back) because it is so bad here," she said.
"Have you had any contact with French officials?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Do you think people in France would welcome you if you came home?" I asked.
"I think no," she said softly.
They have survived the final weeks of this brutal conflict but a different type of struggle is required to get by in this camp.
I watched the residents as they begged for food, medicine and assistance in a multitude of different languages.
My translator and I were approached by one woman trying to help a family from South Africa.
"There are three boys from South Africa and their mother is mentally sick," she told us. "She crawls around on the ground. She isn't (self-aware). The doctors have done nothing."
The former British schoolgirl Shamima Begum also lives in this camp and I was told that she had been moved from one tent to another overnight.
When we met her, the 19-year-old said she and her newborn son were ill and the camp managers had lost her papers.
She said: "I am struggling to get my supplies in right now, I don't have a card because they lost my card, so I have to run around to take care of my son now, when I am sick. I am not getting my (food)."
I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to British politicians after Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her UK citizenship.
"I would like them to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart, you know," she said.
"Can you change, can you rehabilitate?" I asked.
"I am willing to change," she said.
I walked out of the camp, weaving around the tents and piles of people's belongings, mindful that hundreds more will have to fit into this overcrowded spot in the coming days.
The SDF is trying to remove the women and children from what is left of IS' so-called caliphate.
The women here were attracted to a utopian fantasy, propagated by Islamic State - but it has ended in de facto imprisonment.
Life in al Hawl is part of their punishment and no one knows how long they'll have to stay.
(c) Sky News 2019: IS brides' utopian fantasy has ended in de facto imprisonment