Save The Children reports traumatisation of thousands of IS children
Thousands of children displaced from the Islamic State group’s last redoubt in north-eastern Syria show signs of psychological distress, a British charity said on Wednesday.
Save the Children observed the children at the Al-Hol camp for people displaced by fighting as U.S.-backed forces battle IS in the last scrap of territory it holds in the village of Baghouz.
“Children are showing signs of psychological distress, including nervousness, withdrawal, aggression, nightmares and bedwetting, especially among children aged 10 to 14 years old,” said Save the Children.
Infants who fled IS-held areas were “likely to have witnessed acts of brutality and lived under intense bombardment and deprivation in the last enclave held by the group”, it said. “Many will likely need long term mental health and psychosocial support to recover from their experiences,” the charity said in a statement.
One of the children cited in the report was an 11-year-old named Mai who recalled witnessing beheadings and other acts of violence.
“Whenever they saw a woman talking with a man they would stone them and they would behead prisoners in front of their family,” she was quoted as saying. “I always tried not to look when there were beheadings. I would hide behind my mum.”
At the Al-Hol camp, Save the Children said it had set up recreational spaces for children, as well as a centre to deal with unaccompanied children.
But “much more needs to be done to help these children recover,” said Save the Children’s Syria response director, Sonia Khush. “That includes funding and access for case management and protective services and for foreign children repatriation to their countries of origin.”
The British charity says more than 2,500 foreign children from 30 countries, including 1,100 who fled the last IS pocket of Baghouz since January, now live in three camps for the displaced in northeast Syria.
Several thousand people are believed to remain in Baghouz, the last shred of the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” which once straddled Syria and Iraq and ruled millions.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, around 50,000 people have quit the last IS pocket, in the Euphrates Valley, since December 2018.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.