Nearly 70 cases documented by SOHR since early 2020 | An alarming rise in the number of babies of unknown parentage in north Syria
In the recent few months the number of abandoned new-born babies has risen alarmingly in Idlib city and countryside, as many babies, some just a few hours or days old, were found laying on the roadside, in front of mosques, hospitals, humanitarian organizations’ headquarters or even civilian houses.
In a testimony to SOHR, an activist from Saraqeb city in the southern countryside of Idlib and now living in northern Idlib talked about this phenomenon: “for over two years, I have undertaken to document cases related to this phenomenon which has escalated considerably in north Syria, as the number of new-born babies of unknown parentage who were found in 2020 approximated 50, with an average of three to four cases every month. In 2021, this phenomenon did not vanish, as two babies were already found in January, one of whom by the side of the road in Al-Qusur neighbourhood in Idlib city on January 19, while the other was found on the roadside in Ariha city on January 12.”
“Poverty is a major reason behind the rising number of babies of unknown parentage. Poor awareness, lack of experience of parents to deal with babies, relationships outside the institution of marriage, early marriage and divorces are also key factors contributing tothis prevalent phenomenon. Some organizations concerned with psychological support and counselling have to prioritise addressing this phenomenon, the reasons behind it and its impact on the society in general, since it is considered a by-product of the war in Syria,” added the activist.
Talking to SOHR about this phenomenon, the growing number of babies of unknown parentage in her town and neighbouring areas, a civilian woman from Maarrat Misrin town in northern Idlib said, “barely one or two months pass without finding a baby at the gate of a mosque in the town or in other areas. Sometimes, residents take the baby and pledge to caring for it. This phenomenon has risen dramatically in the recent months and years, as it was not prevalent before the start of conflict in Syria in 2011. Even for years after the start of the war, such incidents were scarcely documented. There is a number of contributing factors that could be considered:
- The overpopulation in northern Syria.
- Poor living conditions of civilian families, especially those living in refugee camps.
- Young people’s rejection of marriage because of poverty and inability to bring up children.
However, I see all of these factors do never justify the parent’s abandonment of their children. Workable solutions should be found so that this phenomenon can be eradicated, before there is a large number of babies of unknown parentage.”
A psychological and educational counsellor, known by his initials as N.D., has shared his point of view with SOHR: “as this phenomenon is widely prevalent, we deal with real and existing facts not just hypotheses, so we have to deal carefully with these dramatic changes. Regardless of the reasons which forced the parents to abandon their babies, even if these babies were born outside marriage, all attention should be paid to the babies themselves. These babies should receive appropriate healthcare and get all of their human and social rights as they get older according to private laws that have to be set for such cases, as such babies and children are not to be blamed for being of unknown parentage. In order to put an end to this phenomenon and similar negative phenomena emerging because of wars and economic hardships, relevant bodies have to work on improving people’s living conditions and their perspectives through holding seminars to raise awareness of residents regarding this problem. Besides, perfect healthcare and food have to be provided to poor displaced families.”
It is worth noting that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented in 2020 nearly 70 incidents of finding new-born babies of unknown parentage in Idlib city and countryside, with nearly 40% of these incidents documented in Idlib city alone, while the rest of were documented in other towns and villages, including Ma’saran, Maarrat Misrin, Salqin in the northern countryside of Idlib and Ariha in the southern countryside of Idlib. Most of those babies were found on the roadside and in front of mosques.