Iraq’s chil­dren of caliphate face state­less fu­ture

Thou­sands in IS ar­eas may have no valid doc­u­ments

Kuwait Times - - FROM THE ARABIC PRESS -

Ali and Sara, born in Is­lamic State’s self-styled caliphate in north­ern Iraq, es­caped to a camp for dis­placed peo­ple only to con­front a new chal­lenge-with no iden­tity doc­u­ments, they risk join­ing a gen­er­a­tion of state­less chil­dren. Af­ter seiz­ing large parts of Iraq and neigh­bor­ing Syria in 2014, Is­lamic State im­posed its strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic law and be­gan to es­tab­lish the ba­sic frame­works of state­hood such as taxes and reg­u­la­tion. But that project is col­laps­ing in the face of a mil­i­tary cam­paign in Iraq to crush the mil­i­tants, with un­ex­pected con­se­quences for or­di­nary peo­ple es­cap­ing their grip. Births in Is­lamic State-con­trolled ar­eas were reg­is­tered with au­thor­i­ties that are not con­sid­ered valid out­side that shrink­ing ter­ri­tory or not reg­is­tered at all.

That is adding hun­dreds and per­haps thou­sands of chil­dren un­der the age of 21/2 to the grow­ing num­bers of chil­dren across the Mid­dle East who are state­less - lack­ing le­gal recog­ni­tion as a cit­i­zen of any coun­try. State­less chil­dren risk miss­ing out on ba­sic rights such as ed­u­ca­tion and health­care, are likely to face dif­fi­cul­ties in adult­hood get­ting a job, and are ex­posed to abuse and traf­fick­ing, according to the United Na­tions. The five-year-old civil war in neigh­bor­ing Syria, which has up­rooted 10 mil­lion peo­ple, threat­ens an even greater num­ber of chil­dren born in ar­eas out­side Syr­ian govern­ment con­trol or in refugee camps be­yond its bor­ders.

Sara was born just as the ul­tra-hard­line Is­lamists stormed across Iraq in 2014. Her lit­tle brother Ali was born two years later, days be­fore his fam­ily fled to Debaga camp from their vil­lage south of Mo­sul, Is­lamic State’s last ma­jor strong­hold which Iraqi forces are now bat­tling to re­take. The chil­dren’s fa­ther, Mo­hamed, says he did not reg­is­ter ei­ther birth with Is­lamic State. “If you brought them a child, they would is­sue a birth cer­tifi­cate them­selves in the name of their state,” he said, spurn­ing that propo­si­tion.

Some par­ents did reg­is­ter their new­borns with Is­lamic State, which is­sued pro­pri­etary birth cer­tifi­cates bear­ing the group’s black-and-white logo declar­ing “There is no god but God”. Fu­raq, a 22-yearold from the Mo­sul area, showed Reuters a lightweight pink doc­u­ment is­sued by the group when his eight-month-old son Yasser was born. It closely re­sem­bles its Iraqi equiv­a­lent. Mahdi Waili, head of the govern­ment direc­torate which deals with na­tion­al­ity, said par­ents whose chil­dren do not have birth cer­tifi­cates would be able to go to the health min­istry of­fices to ar­range for their births to be reg­is­tered. How­ever, months af­ter some ar­eas in north­ern Iraq were re­taken from Is­lamic State, lo­cal govern­ment ser­vices have yet to be re­in­stated.

Fear of reprisals

Other par­ents pri­vately say they ob­tained Is­lamic State doc­u­ments for their chil­dren but tore them up when Iraqi forces pushed out the mil­i­tants, fear­ing reprisals for what could be seen as co­op­er­at­ing with the group. Ali, a first-time fa­ther from in­side Mo­sul, spoke to Reuters last week hold­ing his 19-month-old daugh­ter Amal, who was born with a brain de­fect that has kept her from learn­ing to walk. He se­cured a birth cer­tifi­cate for the girl from a neigh­bor who worked in the lo­cal hospi­tal but re­fused to let Is­lamic State au­then­ti­cate it with their of­fi­cial stamp. “The doc­tor told me, ‘Don’t let any­one know you have the cer­tifi­cate or they will slaugh­ter us both’,” Ali said.

Abu Saud, 41-year-old fa­ther of five, said he de­cided not to reg­is­ter his son’s birth in Oc­to­ber 2014 at a vil­lage south of Mo­sul con­trolled at the time by Is­lamic State. “With my other chil­dren, I would go to the res­i­dency depart­ment to reg­is­ter them with a photo and stamp,” he said out­side his tent in Debaga. “It proves that this is my child or your child or his child. But now, he doesn’t have an ID card.” The United Na­tions refugee agency UNHCR says it wants Iraqi au­thor­i­ties to is­sue birth cer­tifi­cates for chil­dren born in ar­eas con­trolled by Is­lamic State.

Debaga camp man­ager Ahmed Abdo said his staff is work­ing with the United Na­tions, a Swedish NGO and the Iraqi govern­ment to try to re­solve the prob­lem, and so far UNHCR has pro­vided le­gal as­sis­tance to help re­solve 175 cases. But a UNHCR spokesman said a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease was an­tic­i­pated as the roughly 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple still liv­ing in­side Mo­sul emerge from Is­lamic State rule. Belkis Wille, Iraq re­searcher for Hu­man Rights Watch, said Iraqi au­thor­i­ties have an in­ter­na­tional le­gal obli­ga­tion to grant na­tion­al­ity to all peo­ple born state­less in their ter­ri­tory. “They should make it a pri­or­ity to al­low th­ese fam­i­lies to rein­te­grate and get access to school and ben­e­fits for their chil­dren as quickly as pos­si­ble,” she said.— Reuters

MO­SUL: The Iraqi army fires a 155mm shell to­wards Is­lamic State mil­i­tant po­si­tions in Mo­sul, from the vil­lage of Ali Rash, east of Mo­sul yes­ter­day. — AP

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