Tag Archives: Squalid

Children of Isil's caliphate left to toil in squalid refugee camps

Children of Isil's caliphate left to toil in squalid refugee campsEight-year-old Hamed cast a critical eye at the at tent peg, raised a hammer above his head and began thwacking it into the hard, stony ground. It is heavy work, and he would rather be in school. But he has little choice. “I get about 2,000 lira for putting up one tent,” he said, using the popular term here for Syrian pounds. “I can do three or four a day, so that is 8,000.” That, he said, is just about enough to feed himself, his mother, and her newborn baby twice a day. “But we can’t eat all the time,” he said. "My mother explained, we can't spend so much money on food because we need to buy stuff for the baby now." Hamed is one of about 41,000 children in al-Hol, the largest of three sprawling camps in north eastern Syria that houses former members, children, and prisoners of the Islamic State terrorist group. More than 40,000 children are living in al-Hol, the largest of three sprawing camps in north eastern Syria that houses former members, children, and prisoners of the Islamic State terrorist group Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph The fate of the children who emerged from Isil's doomed caliphate is a matter of humanitarian urgency and critical to international security. And yet the lack of provision made by world governments, including Britain's, is striking. The Telegraph has seen dozens of malnourished infants as Isil families left Baghuz, Isil's last bastion, in the past two weeks. At least 108 children have already died en route to or soon after arriving at the camp, mostly from severe acute malnutrition, pneumonia, and dehydration, according to the International Rescue Committee. The vast majority of them were under five years old, and most of those babies younger than one.  Many are also carrying serious injuries from shrapnel. The fate of the children who emerged from Isil's doomed caliphate is a matter of humanitarian urgency Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph The casualties included Jarrah Begum, Shamima Begum’s newborn son, who died of a lung infection last month. Unicef has described the living conditions for those children who reach the camp as "extremely dire." Hamed, who spoke to the Telegraph with the permission of his German mother and on condition of anonymity, said he bitterly misses his old life in Europe. “If there was a school, I’d go to it,” he said, as he took a pause in his tent work to speak to the Telegraph. "But there isn't one here." “When I was in Germany I was learning, then in Doula I learnt nothing,” he said, using the Arabic word for “State” – the term many Isil families use for the group. “They just teach like the Quran… and they teach you that you have to fight. But I said: ‘I don’t want to fight’. I don’t like to fight. I just want to be a normal one, I just want to live in a house and make my job. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to be a warrior.” Unicef has described the living conditions for those children who reach the camp as 'extremely dire'   Credit: Sam Tarling /The Telegraph He said he had left Germany when he was five years old, and only emerged from the Islamic State two months ago. The camp, he said, is a miserable and filthy place. “Kids poop everywhere,” he said. “You have to watch where you walk. You can’t just sit anywhere, like you can in Germany.” It is not surprising. Adults in the section of the camp where Hamed lives told the Telegraph many of the young children have chronic diarrhoea.   “Play”, if there is such a thing, involves picking on one another or chucking rocks at moving cars.   “They call me a dog and things. They think it is a joke,” said Hamed, when asked about his friends. “My mother doesn't like me to be like the other children. She says maybe there is a little baby there, like three years old, and maybe you’ll hit him. Even though I don’t like to throw rocks,” he said. “It’s not a game. They come, they throw, the glass breaks,” he said. “In Germany it is not like this, you’re not hitting on cars. If you want to play you go to your friends, you have friends, they don’t call you anything, you play a bit.” The larger and more loosely regulated section of the camp reserved for Syrian and Iraqi citizens has a market which is run by Kurdish authorities in al-Hol Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Most children have little time for that though. Adults here told the Telegraph that almost every child from about the age of eight upwards is a low-paid labourer in the camp’s grey economy. “They’re already entrepreneurs. I think they wake up and the first thing they think is: who am I going to hit up for money today?” said Lorna Henri, a 54-year-old woman from the Seychelles who has become the de-facto guardian of two unaccompanied children in the camp. "I try to give them what I can." Ms Henri said boys generally sent by their mothers to run errands in the camp market, which children can access more easily than adults, and put up tents. Girls clean or offer to cook. The market, in the larger and more loosely regulated section of the camp for Syrian and Iraqi citizens, is crowded with small boys hauling hand carts for 200 Syrian pounds per errand. The market is crowded with small boys hauling hand carts for 200 Syrian pounds per errand Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Such Dickensian scenes are not unusual amidst humanitarian crisis. And across the Middle East, children are generally expected to pull their own weight at an earlier age than in the West. But the prospects for these children are bleak in more than one way. Radical Isil supporters continue to exert influence inside al-Hol, including by harassing women who want to remove their veils.  There have been reports of punishment tent-burnings by an underground “religious police”, and several women from different countries who the Telegraph spoke to complained about being labelled “infidels” by their fellow inmates. Without intervention, there is a good chance the children here will be brought up in the same poisonous ideology that turned many of their fathers into terrorists. Without intervention, there is a chance the camp's children here will be brought up in the same poisonous ideology that turned many of their fathers into terrorists The United Nations has expressed “alarm” at the situation. Last week  Henrietta Fore, the executive director of Unicef, urged member states “to take responsibility for children who are their citizens or born to their nationals, and to take measures to prevent children from becoming stateless.” Some governments have heeded the call. Last week, the French government said it had evacuated several children. But Kurdish officials have told the Telegraph that Britain has refused to take back British Isil members or their children in the camps on the grounds that it has full confidence in the legal and administrative system of Rojava, the unrecognised Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, last week claimed that it would have been “too risky” to send British officials to save Jarrah Begum, although he remained a British citizen after his mother was stripped of her own citizenship. However, the al-Hol camp is run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led Western-backed armed group that Britain is allied to. Journalists, including from the Telegraph, and aid workers visit the camp on a regular basis, safely and without incident. Radical Isil supporters continue to exert influence inside al-Hol, including by harassing women who want to remove their veils Credit: Sam Tarling/The Telegraph Nor is it true, as Mr Hunt claimed, that journalists are afforded special protection unavailable to UK officials in Syria or in the camps. In al-Hol, the foreign women constantly exchange rumours about which governments might take Isil members back. For their children, who committed no crime, the only thing on the horizon is more arduous work. "I'd like to…sell stuff. Or you know, build houses," shrugged Hamed, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up. Those are the only careers on offer in al-Hol camp. He picked up his hammer, and went back to hitting the tent peg. His blows made little impact on the stony ground. 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Missing child found dead at squalid New Mexico hideout

Missing child found dead at squalid New Mexico hideoutPolice in New Mexico have found the remains of a young boy buried inside a remote desert encampment, where 11 starving children were discovered last week. The body has not yet been formally identified, but is believed to be that of four-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, whose mother reported him as abducted by his father, Siraj Wahhaj, in December. Wahhaj, 39, is due to appear in court in New Mexico on Wednesday charged with child abuse, in connection with the 11 filthy and hungry children. His two sisters, Subhannah, 35, and Hujrah, 38, were charged alongside him, as was Subjannah’s husband Lucas Morten. Wahhaj’s wife Jany Leveille, 38, was also facing charges of child abuse and expected to appear before the judge. The saga began in December, when Wahhaj told the boy’s mother he was taking their severely disabled child, who suffered from seizures and was unable to walk, to the park. Siraj Wahhaj, arrested on Friday by police in New Mexico He never returned to their home in Georgia, and the boy’s mother reported it to the police, saying Wahhaj intended to perform an “exorcism” on his son because Abdul-Ghani was “possessed by the Devil.” She later said that was a mistranslation, and Wahhaj merely intended to pray for their son. New Mexico authorities had long suspected the father and son might be at the compound after learning about the abduction in May, said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. Family members told The Telegraph that Wahhaj owned land there. But there was not enough evidence for a search warrant, and surveillance of the property did not identify the pair there. That changed on Thursday, when they received a note from a child inside the compound, saying they were starving and thirsty. After a day-long standoff with Wahhaj and Morten, both of whom were heavily armed, the police entered the compound on Friday and rescued the children, arresting all five adults. Interviewed by police, at least two of the children said the toddler, Abdul-Ghani, was at the compound in poor health and died there. They said “Uncle Lucas,” believed to be Lucas Morten, washed the child's dead body twice, then buried him in a tunnel on the compound. "I had no probable cause to go onto this property,” said Sheriff Hogrefe. “In hindsight I wish there was. But we would not have been there lawfully.”



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Yo-Yo Ma Performs Private Concert For Siblings Rescued From Squalid Home

Yo-Yo Ma Performs Private Concert For Siblings Rescued From Squalid HomeSeven siblings who were rescued from a squalid Southern California home earlier this year received a special treat last week: a private performance by Yo-Yo Ma. The world-renowned cellist reportedly performed for seven of the 13 siblings at a hospital in Corona, California, on Friday. The special visit came roughly two months after authorities said the siblings were found shackled and malnourished in the home of their parents, David and Louise Turpin, capping years of abuse.



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