War-weary Syrian children foresee prolonged displacement: Study

In their study titled “Anywhere but Syria,” Save the Children has found that a huge swathe of the refugee children population cannot see themselves returning in the near future. (AFP/File Photo)
In their study titled “Anywhere but Syria,” Save the Children has found that a huge swathe of the refugee children population cannot see themselves returning in the near future. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 11 March 2021

War-weary Syrian children foresee prolonged displacement: Study

In their study titled “Anywhere but Syria,” Save the Children has found that a huge swathe of the refugee children population cannot see themselves returning in the near future. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Save the Children conducted research in several countries where Syrians found refugee after war broke out in 2011
  • Nearly 80 percent said they expect to find themselves somewhere other than Syria after another two years

LONDON: Ten years after the start of the brutal conflict in Syria, an entire generation of Syrians is missing. Children who grew up during the violence, and fled to safer shores, have told a major charity in a new report that they do not want to return to their country of origin.

In their study titled “Anywhere but Syria,” Save the Children has found that a huge swathe of the refugee children population cannot see themselves returning in the near future.

Between November and December 2020, the charity spoke with over 1,900 Syrian children aged 13 to 17 in Syria (in areas controlled by Bashar Assad’s regime), Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and the Netherlands.

The results were shocking: Some 79 percent of children said that after two years, they expect to find themselves somewhere other than Syria.




A Syrian child fleeing the war is lifted over border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale in Sanliurfa province. (AFP)

Out of the refugee children in the Netherlands and nearby countries, just 14 percent predicted a return to their country of origin. Some 64 percent of the interviewees in these countries were hoping to integrate where they were currently residing.

In Syria, the findings were clear: Children do not want to remain in their country. They were significantly less likely than those in the other countries surveyed to say that they would like to be living in Syria in two years.

Pessimism is rife in Syria, with the children less likely to believe that they will be able to live in the future where they hope to.

Just 42 percent of internally displaced Syrian children said that they thought they would be able to realize their wish, significantly less than those in any other country.

The situation is similarly dire in Lebanon, a country which is hosting approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees and under enormous pressure from its worst economic recession.

Dr. Nana Ndeda, policy advocacy and communications director at Save the Children’s Lebanon country office, told Arab News: “Lebanon presents a distinct context for Syrian refugees. We are now in a state of affairs where we are extremely worried about the plight of refugees in the midst of an entire population that is going down a steep decline in access to basic services or increased fragility.

“Lebanon is going through its worst economic crisis, we are seeing increased incidents of violence and shortages of food, medicine and other basics. This makes the condition for refugees even worse. In the last couple of weeks, the situation has deteriorated rapidly, with increasing levels of poverty.”

Ndeda added: “Refugees in Lebanon are now twice as poor than they were a year ago. The coronavirus disease pandemic has not made it any easier. There has been more than a year’s disruption in education services, which is leading to an increase of protection challenges, such as child marriage, other abuse, and increasing child labor.

“Most children are using their family hardships as a motivation to get into the workforce earlier than they planned.”

INNUMBERS

Save the Children’s survey

* 26% - Children whose biggest wish is end to violence in Syria.

* 58% - Children inside Syria who reported being discriminated against.

* 29% - Children in Lebanon who want to go back to Syria.

Save the Children reported that freedom of expression and the children having a say in their future was a key theme that was brought up by them in the interviews.

Many of the children interviewed wanted to have their voices heard outside their homes and in society. The team found that children in Lebanon were especially keen to report the value of joint work to positively influence change.

Oben Coban, governmental relations adviser at Save the Children Turkey, told Arab News: “Regardless of the choices of these children, to go back to Syria or stay, we want them to have the security of choosing a safe future. We have a high belief that we do not see a future for children with children having a say in their future.”

As in Lebanon, Turkey has produced its own unique challenges for Syrian refugee children. Coban said: “This 10-year period has been very cruel for these children. They have had to leave their homes and settle in a new culture and country and with a new language.




A decade of war may have ravaged his country, but Syria's President Bashar Assad has clung to power, with help from allies such as Russia's Vladimir Putin, and looks determined to see out the conflict. (AFP/File Photo)

“Turkey is not like Lebanon or Jordan. Here, it is totally different. More than 3.5 million Syrians have fled and integration with the host community has been tough.”

But despite these cultural barriers and language differences, Syrian children have not expressed a keenness to urgently leave Turkey. Oban said that “only three percent of all the children in Turkey want to return, a very low number. Eighty-eight percent want to stay in Turkey. Only nine percent want to go to another country.”

The Turkish experience for Syrian refugees has brought some positives: “Girls are more likely to attend school than many other host countries and the language difference, contrary to our expectations, did not result in children in Turkey feeling ‘othered.’ The most important request from children is that they want to integrate into Turkish society and understand the culture.”

In the Netherlands, in northern Europe and as far from Syrian life as one could imagine, similar results were found, with children expressing a hope to remain in their host country.

Juliette Verhoeven, lobby and advocacy officer at Save the Children Netherlands, told Arab News: “Most of the children perceived being in the Netherlands as something positive in their life. More than 90 percent of the Syrian children in the Netherlands want to stay; some five percent said they would maybe go to another third country. That really stood out.”




Children play in a rainwater puddle at the flooded Mukhayyam Al-Khair camp near the village of Kafr Uruq in the north of Idlib province on December 17, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

There are some sizable differences between the Netherlands and other host countries that were surveyed regarding the reception of refugees. In Turkey, you cannot be sure if you will get your status as a refugee, and it has to be regularly renewed.

With lingual and cultural barriers, refugees also have to confront Ankara’s inflexible government regulations, which change regularly when it comes to Syrian refugees.

By contrast, Verhoeven said, in the Netherlands “they are never sent back to Syria. It is labelled an unsafe country by the Dutch government, so every refugee gets status unless this person was already registered in another EU country. Once you have refugee status, you have a permit for five years. The chance that you will receive citizenship after five years is highly possible.”

Child refugees from Syria are, in many ways, adjusting to their host countries faster than their parents. Every refugee in the Netherlands is offered the chance to learn a language, but Syria children learn the language much faster than their parents as they grow up around the culture.




Displaced Syrian girl Tayma, 4, sells liquorice juice known as Jallab on the side of the road at a camp near Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey during Ramadan to help her injured father with living expenses. (AFP/File Photo)

Verhoeven said that this has contributed to “a gap of knowledge between parents and Syrian children, who all indicated that they feel more connected to Dutch society than Syrian society because their parents are at a different pace of the integration process than they are.”

With all of these different experiences in Turkey, Lebanon and the Netherlands, some strands of similar thoughts and feelings are found consistently among Syrian child refugees. At the top of their priorities is the universal desire for the violence to stop.

They are aware, according to the report’s researchers, that their normal lives can never resume until a lasting ceasefire and a political settlement of some kind commences in Syria. But with regular changes in political and military actors in the region, it is unclear when that time may come.

Until it does, Syria’s missing generation is expected to want to remain in the safer, distant homes they are creating.

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Twitter: @CDP1882


Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque

The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)
The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)
Updated 3 min 35 sec ago

Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque

The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy. (Supplied/UNESCO/©Salah El Din Samir Hareedy and team)

LONDON: UNESCO has announced the winner of an architectural design competition to rebuild a historic mosque destroyed by Daesh in Iraq.

Eight Egyptian architects beat out more than 120 other entries to win the international competition for the reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Mosque complex in Mosul.

The mosque was mostly destroyed by the extremist group in 2017 as Iraqi forces fought to recapture the city.

The reconstruction of the mosque is a central part of UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project, which aims to rehabilitate the ancient city, which has been heavily affected by the recent conflict.

The winning design, which is called “Courtyards Dialogue,” is the work of a team of four partners, headed up by Salah El-Din Samir Hareedy.

More to follow …


Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
Updated 44 min ago

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
  • Rejection of investigation ‘marks low point’ in bilateral ties: Diplomatic mission
  • UK stance ‘farcical and hypocritical,’ Palestine Solidarity Campaign tells Arab News

LONDON: Palestine has said its relations with Britain have reached a “new low” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories.

In a letter to the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson said his government had “respect (for) the independence” of the ICC but opposed the inquiry.

“This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,” he wrote.

In a statement posted on its website, the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Britain said Johnson’s letter was “deeply regrettable” and “marks a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”

The letter contradicts both international law and Britain’s own policy on Palestine, the mission said, stressing the need to respect international law for the good of all parties.

“We sincerely hope the UK will reconsider its position and that in the cold light of day understand that the best option for everyone, including Israel, is a firm commitment to international law and the basic principle of equality for all,” it added.

A panel of judges at the ICC ruled in February that the court has jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem. 

“Shamefully, Johnson has made clear that the government’s opposition to the ICC’s investigation is rooted in the fact that it’s being initiated against ‘a friend and ally of the UK’s’,” Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Arab News.

“It also renders farcical and hypocritical the prime minister’s simultaneous assertion that the UK is ‘a strong supporter’ of the court,” Jamal added.

“We call upon the UK government to adopt a more consistent position supporting the court but not exempting Israeli officials from proper investigation.”
A joint letter penned by several charities and aid groups accused Johnson of “political interference” in the ICC’s work.

The UK government “could be a bastion of international law and human rights — but instead it is undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice,” said the signatories, which include Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

The government “should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support — rather than substantially undermine — international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms,” they added.


Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
Updated 15 April 2021

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
  • Investigating judge ordered the release of 6 men including an officer, who had warned top officials of dangers of material stored at port
  • The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge investigating 2020’s massive blast at Beirut’s port on Thursday ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months, state news agency reported.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the release of the men, who include an officer who had written a detailed warning to top officials prior to the explosion about the dangers of the material stored at the port.
Judge Tarek Bitar was named to lead the investigation in February after his predecessor was removed following legal challenges by two former Cabinet ministers he had accused of negligence.
State-run National News Agency said Bitar ordered the release of the six including Maj. Joseph Naddaf of the State Security department and Maj. Charbel Fawaz of the General Security Directorate. The four others are customs and port employees.
Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on Aug. 4, killing 211 people, wounding more than 6,000 and damaging nearby neighborhoods.
The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity to follow regulations. The official added that 19 people are still being held in the case. Among those who are still held are the head of the customs department and his predecessor as well as the port’s director general.
In a July 20 report, State Security warned that one of the doors of the warehouse where the material had been stored was separated from the wall enough to allow anyone to enter and steal the ammonium nitrate.
The report that was sent to President Michel Aoun and then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned that thieves could steal the material to make explosives. Or, it said, the mass of material could cause an explosion “that would practically destroy the port.”
Holding Naddaf for months had angered some in Lebanon especially that his report two weeks before the blast was a clear warning of the dangers.
The Beirut port explosion has been one of the most traumatic national experiences the Lebanese have faced and families of those killed are skeptical that any investigation into the explosion can be transparent and independent in a country where a culture of impunity has prevailed for decades.


Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
Updated 15 April 2021

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
  • Talks stalled after Lebanon demanded larger area, including Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration
  • "Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law," Aoun told US envoy Hale

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun demanded Israel on Thursday to halt exploration in an offshore gas field on its southern border amid ongoing dispute over their shared sea frontier.
Still technically at war, the two countries last year took part in indirect US-brokered talks to discuss demarcation to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.
The talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration.
“Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law,” Aoun told visiting United States envoy David Hale.
Aoun “demanded international experts... draw the line according to international law,” the presidency said in a statement.
He also called for a “commitment to not carrying out any oil or gas activities and not starting any exploration in the Karish field and its adjacent waters” until the matter was settled.
The talks last year were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.
But Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more territory further south, including part of Karish.
Lebanon’s outgoing public works minister this week signed a decree to make official Lebanon’s demand for the larger area.
Aoun, the caretaker prime minister, and the outgoing defense minister still have to sign it before Lebanon sends it to the UN to make its new demand official.
For his part, Hale on Thursday said the US was ready to continue brokering Israel-Lebanon talks “on the basis on which we initiated these discussions,” appearing to reject the Lebanese move toward demanding a larger area.


Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’
Updated 15 April 2021

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’
  • Lorenzo Guerini, Italy’s defense minister, said that the presence in Libya of Italian troops was ‘part of an overall national strategy’
  • According to Italian military statistics, the country has 400 troops deployed in Libya, as well as a field hospital

ROME: Italy considered Libya to be a “strategic priority” and has pledged to provide the peace-seeking north African country’s transitional government with “every assistance needed.”

Lorenzo Guerini, Italy’s defense minister, said that the presence in Libya of Italian troops was “part of an overall national strategy.”

He pointed out that Libya was of “huge significance” to Italy for a number of reasons, “from our national security, economic, historical, and cultural point of view.”

And the minister added that a democratic Libya could act as a barrier for Italy and the EU against the “strong jihadist presence in Africa.”

According to Italian military statistics, the country has 400 troops deployed in Libya, as well as a field hospital.

“Our approach to Libya always remains the same. We support the training to local security forces. And we intend this support to continue on a long-term basis,” Guerini told Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

“This investment requires patience and persistence, but I am sure that the results we will achieve will be lasting and effective.”

Military and technical cooperation between Italy and Libya began in December following the signing in Rome of a bilateral agreement between the two nations.

“Our action is focused on providing training to the local security forces, but we will be happy to comply with the other priorities the Libyan government indicated, such as de-mining expertise and support for a military health service. We now look with confidence at the action of the new government,” Guerini said.

Italy is supporting the European Irini naval mission, launched in March last year by the Council of the EU, that aims to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya. The operation in the Mediterranean was recently extended until March 2023.

Irini also has secondary tasks including monitoring illegal oil trafficking from Libya, helping to counter human trafficking and smuggling activities, and contributing to the training of the Libyan coast guard and navy.

Guerini added: “Irini should be strengthened. A wider contribution from the members states is needed so that the mission can fully reach its goals.”