Born under Daesh, sick Iraqi children left undocumented, untreated

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Salima, a 36-year-old mother of four living in the Laylan 2 displacement camp, sits with her children in their tent at the camp, southeast of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on May 9, 2019. No documents? No doctor. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
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Alaa Hamza, a 28-year-old mother living in the Laylan 2 displacement camp, sits with her son Methaq, who suffers from autism and epilepsy, in their rented home in Hawija, 45 kilometres west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on May 9, 2019. No documents? No doctor. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
Updated 16 May 2019

Born under Daesh, sick Iraqi children left undocumented, untreated

  • To leave Laylan 2 even briefly, displaced families need to present IDs to the federal police at the entrance and sometimes even get a sponsor to vouch for them
  • Among them are 45,000 children living in camps who were born under Daesh and are therefore lacking state-issued legal documents

LAYLAN, Iraq: No documents? No doctor. Without state-issued IDs, Iraqi mothers struggle to have children born under the now-defeated Daesh treated for conditions ranging from asthma to epilepsy.
“It’s unjust,” said Salima, a 36-year-old mother of four living in the Laylan 2 displacement camp in northern Iraq.
Three of her children were born under Daesh rule and cannot go to school or leave the camp because they lack state-issued identity papers — including Abdulkarim, who was struggling to nap in her lap on a muggy afternoon.
The toddler’s breathing was strained, his tiny chest heaving. The asthma, Salima said, was getting worse.
“There’s a clinic in the camp but it’s no good. They refer us to hospitals but the camp security won’t let us go,” she said, stroking his head.
To leave Laylan 2 even briefly, displaced families need to present IDs to the federal police at the entrance and sometimes even get a sponsor to vouch for them.
Salima said she tried numerous times to take Abdulkarim to a specialist in nearby Kirkuk, but was not allowed to leave.
And trying to have IDs issued for her three stateless children has proved almost impossible, as both parents’ papers need to be submitted.
Her husband was an Daesh member killed in fighting, which means Salima’s own papers have been confiscated by camp security.
“I’ve been trying to get our papers issued for seven months and haven’t been able to, because we’re ‘Daesh’ families,” she told AFP.
“This affects my children in every way — from a security perspective, economically, health-wise, education.”
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in late 2017, but the extremists’ three-year reign over swathes of the country planted a destructive and long-lasting legacy.
Much of Iraq remains in ruins, with 1.6 million people still displaced.
Among them are 45,000 children living in camps who were born under Daesh and are therefore lacking state-issued legal documents, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) recently found.
These children cannot register for school or access steady health care, and may not be able to marry or own property, the NRC said.
The effects on health care are not uniform nationwide, and appeared to vary depending on the checkpoint or facility.
Laylan 2 seemed to have the toughest restrictions, according to camp representative Hussein Habd, 53.
“Three-fourths of the families in the camp don’t have IDs and cannot exit. Even if they’re sick, if they have cancer or skin diseases, they’re barred from leaving,” he told AFP.
At a checkpoint a few kilometers (miles) away, a member of the security forces said orders allowed them to let medical cases through, even without paperwork.
Around Hawija, 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the west, the NRC found infants without papers were denied vaccinations, reportedly causing an emergence of scabies, measles and other diseases.
And further north in Mosul, Daesh’s onetime Iraqi capital, women without paperwork were not allowed to give birth in hospitals, according to the NRC, which in turn impacted newborns’ access to state-issued birth certificates.
The NRC warned that could condemn children to “life on the margins.”
“If this issue is not addressed immediately, it could spiral. This issue did not end with the conflict against Daesh,” said NRC spokeswoman Alexandra Saieh.
The lack of documentation has also impeded families’ ability to register for state welfare programs.
That restriction has been devastating for five-year-old Methaq.
“My son has epilepsy, autism, and no ID,” his mother Alaa Hamza told AFP in a shabby home they rent in Hawija.
Born less than a week after Daesh overran their hometown in 2014, Methaq was never issued a birth certificate.
He now suffers from seizures and mood swings. But sustained care seems a long way off.
Hamza splayed out the contents of a plastic bag on the torn carpet in their living room — medical prescriptions, brain scans, and other tests dating back to 2017.
“We went to four different doctors, every time they take money: $250 in Kirkuk for an EEG, then another $150 for more tests,” she said, which she paid for through donations.
“Our financial situation is dire, and we need to get him an ID so he can benefit from state health care,” she said.
But she can’t even afford that.
“If I want to get him one, it will cost me between 25,000 and 30,000 IQD (around $25). We don’t have it,” she said.
Methaq currently takes a nightly pill to ease his seizures, donated by Doctors Without Borders. His mother said he needs more intensive help.
“He’s five and doesn’t speak yet. I’m worried for his future,” she said.


From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.