Children of unknown parentage in regime-controlled areas | New-born babies abandoned to unknown fate
In light of the dire living conditions throughout Syria, incidents of child abandonment have alarmingly escalated, particularly in regime-controlled areas. The protracted war, which has been raging for over a decade, has led to the breakdown of many Syrian families and affected civilians greatly, especially with the forcible displacement, deteriorating living conditions and economic collapse. All these factors have sadly contributed to the rapid spread of this worrying phenomenon.
On January 15, a 40-day-old infant was found in front of a building in Al-Qusur neighbourhood in Homs city. While another baby was found, on January 12, in front of a building in Abi Al-Fedaa suburb in Hama city with a paper note reading that the baby was called “Fajr” and that he was a legitimate child. The baby was taken to the General Commission of Al-Assad’s Medical Complex in Homs, before he was transported to an orphanage in Damascus.
Also on January 9, a 10-month-old baby was found in front of a private hospital in Al-Darraj city. The baby was suffering from fever, so he was taken to the hospital.
Poverty, one of the most dangerous ramifications of the conflict in Syria, is a prominent factor behind the increasing number of incidents of child abandonment. Another key factor leading to the spread of this phenomenon is relationships outside the institution of marriage that produce illegitimate children, as parents, on most occasions, attempt to get rid of these children, fearing “scandal and societal stigma.”
The increase in number of children of unknown parentage in regime-controlled areas brings to mind the legislative act discussed in the People’s Assembly of Syria in 2018, which included articles granting children of unknown parentage the rights Syrian citizenship, healthcare and many others. However, the members of People’s Assembly rejected the act, while the council at that time passed only a few articles, including Article No. 20 which defines children of unknown parentage as Muslim Arabic Syrian citizens.
Also, in 2018, the members of People’s Assembly approved Article No. 14 stipulating the children of unknown parentage have to be kept in orphanages until they reach the age of eighteen in order to be able to depend on themselves and earn their living. According to that article, residency of those children is allowed to be renewed for a year in every time, up to seven years at most. Moreover, Article No. 15 calls for handing over of children of unknown parentage to the police in order to start procedures for sending them to trusted foster care centres.
The Syrian regime recently pushing for reactivating and making into law this article with the aim of granting citizenship to children of unknown parentage, as well as granting IDs and all rights that every Syrian citizen enjoys. Such decision enables children of non-Syrian parents to get Syrian citizenship, as many Syrian women have married fighters of militias loyal to the Syrian regime, such as Iranian-backed militias, in regime-controlled areas. Most of these relationships did not continue due to the death or missing of the father or for other reasons.
Children born under these relationships could be covered by this article in the case that the People’s Assembly ratified and passed it, which effectively means that the Syrian regime itself is changing the demography of the region by settling and granting Syrian citizenship to many children of Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan and Russian nationalities, who will be dealt with as Syrian citizens having all civil rights.
The Syrian regime has described that the militias which have been involved in the Syrian conflict alongside regime forces following an official request by the Syrian regime as “allies” and claimed that their role would be over with the end of war in Syria. However, the recent developments on the ground indicate to a demographic change in regime-held areas by enabling foreign fighters to settle in Syrian territory, take over properties of indigenous residents who have been forced to displace to north Syria region and marry Syrian women, as well as granting their children Syrian citizenship.
It is worth noting that the phenomenon of abandonment of new-born babies and illegitimate children is not confined to regime-controlled areas, as several incidents have been documented since 2011 in Idlib city and countryside which are controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, areas under the control of Turkish-backed factions in northern Aleppo and SDF-held areas.