Child and women begging in NW Syria | Destitution , exploitation and lack of oversight • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Child and women begging in NW Syria | Destitution , exploitation and lack of oversight

Dire living and financial conditions of families living in northern Syria are forcing some into begging in order to secure their basic daily needs.

Families sending their children to beg could be doing so because of certain difficult situations such as the loss of a breadwinner, illness, injury or lack of job opportunities.

On the other hand, the issue of begging has become not only a phenomenon caused by wars and economic crises, but also a lucrative business and an easy way to gain money for some people in the northern Syrian region, specifically the area of Idlib and its countryside.


Begging: difficult but only option

At the beginning of each day, the 14-year-old boy “Khaled” starts his journey hoping to find someone who would give him a little money to secure his needs, and ending up collecting only two dollars. “Khaled”, who was displaced from the area of “Deir Hassan” in northern countryside of Idlib, shares his story with SOHR: “I am displaced from eastern countryside of Hama, I live with my ill father and mother, and my younger brother. After the displacement, I left school and I searched a lot for a job. I worked for about a year selling clothes, and now I have no other option but begging for securing living necessities.

I set off daily from our tent roaming the streets, shops and restaurants. A lot of civilians, especially young people, completely ignore me under the pretext that I am not in need, while others give me one lira or half a Turkish lira. At the end of the day, I buy a bread pack and some of the needs of the house, and I hope to find a job to get rid of this work that I am forced to do, but I have no other option now.”


 Reasons behind child begging

A media activist from Idlib city told SOHR in his testimony about this phenomenon and its scale in the region: “Recently, there has been a significant increase in the number of beggars, including women, children and even young people. But the majority are children aged between 8 and 15 years. When you pass any street, car traffic, restaurant or garden, you will see these people, begging passers-by to give them money. In Idlib city there are large numbers of them and even in cities and towns in countryside and displacement camps.

The causes of this phenomenon are many as each child has a different story, but the majority suffer from extreme poverty and loss of breadwinner, and of course everyone knows that the 10-year bloody events the country has been going through could easily produce such phenomena.

On the other hand, has become a business, where some people exploit these children, assembling a number of them and then sending them to a certain area and then regrouping them at the end of the day. We have documented many of these cases.

These children are subjected to psychological abuse, as they are often subjected to insults and harassment by some people, or even by the person who sends them, whether he is a stranger or a relative, and they experience extreme stress because of the long period spent travelling between streets, sidewalks, parks, cafes, etc., which is a violation of their rights and causes many problems such as dropping out of school or learning bad things.”

The activist added “We have called on many official bodies, including local councils and others to put an end to this phenomenon but to no avail under the pretext of the need of these children to beg and the inability to control this situation, which is widespread, and not knowing the people responsible for child begging. However, a solution to this phenomenon must be found, and those who exploit them to earn money must be held accountable, and there is even a high probability that they take only a tiny share of the money they earn from begging.”

Civilians in Idlib can distinguish beggars

The owner of one of the “Shawarma” restaurants, known by his initials as (A.O.), in the town of Kafr Takharim in northern countryside of Idlib tells the Syrian Observatory that “at the beginning of every day when the restaurant opens and customers start coming, these children come to beg from customers, some people give them some money, and others ignore them.

The strange thing is that you see the same children every day, as if they are a group, and they even disappear at the same hour every day. I tried several times to prevent them from entering my restaurant but I was criticized by some customers so I ignored their presence in the recent period.

There are many children and even women who take this work as a profession and a daily job to earn money, even if they are not in need.

Once I saw a woman who left the restaurant after begging from customers, coming out with a child in her hands. Then she went to the sidewalk and shortly afterwards she got into a car as if she were waiting for the owner of the car, and she does not even look as if she is in need by her dress, bag and even the car.

As we have recently seen many of these cases, the issue of begging for some of these people has become a business.

There must be a regulatory authority that controls this phenomenon and puts an end to it, so that begging does not become an excuse for children to drop out of their schools and destroy their future. A good environment must be provided for these children who have lost their parents and started begging, and must be taken care of and raise their awareness of the importance of education.”


The psychological and social consequences of this phenomenon

The social worker and teacher of sociology in Idlib, known by his initials as (M.A.), believes that this phenomenon has many negatives impacts that will harm the individuals and society in the north of Syria: “This phenomenon was not the result of the current events in Syria, but it is very old and widespread in the major cities in Syria and even in rural towns and villages. More recently, however, it has been increasing as a result of deteriorating living conditions, the scarcity of jobs and the near-total interruption of the educational process for thousands of children due to displacement and regime’s control over large areas in Syria.

With the presence of many difficult humanitarian situations in the north of Syria, this phenomenon has taken a commercial turn, exploiting and getting civilians to sympathize with these people to give them money. Each of them has a different story, some of them ask for money to pay for their house rent or buy medicine or even a pack of bread for his family, but in general many of them take this behaviour as a profession and certainly there are some people who are managing and controlling these beggars.

This phenomenon has many negative impacts on the children in particular, as it contributes to destruction of their future, social failure, physical and sexual exploitation and difficult psychological burdens, as well as to ignorance and illiteracy. The bulk of the responsibility lies with the sponsors and relevant organizations for children’s welfare.

Children must engaged in the educational process or even be placed in vocational workshops to learn certain professions in order to support their families, and awareness-raising campaigns must be conducted to highlight seriousness of this phenomenon and appropriate solutions must be developed.”

The phenomenon of begging in the north of Syria continues and is on the rise, with t many children and women exploited as a business and an easy way to making money; and sadly there are no signs of any radical solution to end this serious problem any time soon.

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