LONDON: An Australian teenager trapped in a Syrian prison overrun by Daesh fighters has begged for help in a series of messages warning that he will die amid the fighting, like other children around him already have.
“There’s a lot of people dead in front of me, I’m scared I might die any time because I’m bleeding, please help me,” the boy said in voice notes sent to family in Australia.
He is detained in Gweiran prison in the northeastern city of Hasakah, which was attacked in a sophisticated assault by hundreds of Daesh insurgents last week.
Clashes are ongoing. On Monday, representatives from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is in control of the territory, told the Telegraph that Daesh had seized the “childrens’ section” of the prison.
Gweiran prison is a major facility used to detain former Daesh members, holding an estimated 3,000 inmates from a variety of countries.
Some children have already died in the fighting, said the Australian teenager.
“I've seen a lot of bodies of kids, 8 years, 10 years, 12 years. My friends got killed here. I’m by myself, I’m very scared, there’s a lot of people dead, a lot of people injured,” he said.
Fighters from the SDF are said to be closing in on the final wing held by prison attackers, and the situation is said to be becoming increasingly worrying for those within the prison.
“People are screaming next to me, people are scared. I really need help, I really want to come back home. Please help me,” said the boy, who said he had been wounded in the head and hand by an Apache helicopter, after the US-led coalition against Daesh carried out airstrikes.
The unnamed boy has been detained in Gweiran since 2019 after being separated from his mother after surrendering to the SDF in the final days of Daesh’s so-called caliphate, according to Kamalle Dabboussy, an advocate for Australians detained in northeast Syria.
Dabboussy said the boy was never involved in any fighting and that he had been taken to Syria when he was 11 or 12 by his family.
“We’ve been advocating for him intensely for three years, the Australian government knew very well that he was there and that he needed assistance,” said Dabboussy.
He added: “He should not be in a men’s prison, he should not be in that part of the world, he should be brought home.”
The prison siege has once again highlighted the plight of hundreds of foreigners living in SDF-run prisons across northeastern Syria.
Humanitarian groups have renewed calls for governments to repatriate their citizens.
“All foreign children must be repatriated — with their families — without any further delay,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria country director.
“The international community cannot have the blood of any of these children on their hands.”
SDF-run prisons in northeast Syria hold about 12,000 men and boys suspected of links to Daesh, including several thousand foreigners, according to Human Rights Watch. Two detention camps hold a further 60,000 mostly women and children who were also affiliated with the group.