Australian teenager dies in Syrian prison

Yusuf Zahab's death should be no surprise to governments that have outsourced responsibility for their nationals held in horrific conditions, says official.

Australian teenager dies in Syrian prison

An Australian teenager wrongfully detained at a prison in Syria’s northeastern city of Al-Hasakah has died, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said over the weekend.

In a statement, HRW said Yusuf Zahab’s family reported that he was forced as a child to live under Daesh/ISIS before he was detained.

The family was informed by Australian authorities on Saturday that their son died of uncertain causes, the statement said.

"The family said it had learned in January 2021 that Zahab had caught tuberculosis in a severely overcrowded, makeshift prison run by a Kurdish-led armed group holding Syrian and foreign ISIS suspects and that his treatment had stopped," it noted.

The New York-based rights group said the teenager was last heard from in January this year, when he sent "desperate pleas for help" from his cell in al-Sina’a prison, which was under siege by Daesh/ISIS.

'Horrific conditions in northern Syria’

"Tragically, the reported death of teenager Yusuf Zahab should be no surprise to Australia and other governments that have outsourced responsibility for their nationals held in horrific conditions in northeast Syria,” Letta Tayler, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW.

Kamalle Dabboussy, the representative for the Zahabs and other detainees’ families, noted that between 69 and 80 Australian citizens, including 19 women and 39 children, are being held by the SDF and other armed organizations in northeast Syria as Daesh/ISIS suspects and their family members.

Thousands of Daesh/ISIS members from many countries are being kept in the prison, which was converted from a high school into a prison by the YPG/PKK terrorist group.

In January, an unknown number of Daesh/ISIS members escaped from the Ghwayran detention camp in Al-Hasakah, which is run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a rebranded version of the YPG/PKK terror group.

Hüseyin Demir