FJA 2020 Shortlist

Category: Outstanding Investigative Reporting

Mahmoud El-Bakour, Ali Al-Ibrahim


In Idlib, Children Are Cast into the Unknown

January 22, 2020

The original publication is available via the following link: 

“[My wife] and I gave the child medical treatment and now she’s in good health,” Mahmoud, a man in his fifties living in the town of al-Khowary in Idlib province, said. “She was quite sick due to the weather.”

The abandonment of newborns is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in Syria, mainly due to extreme poverty. Mothers have left their children—some only hours or days old—at the doorsteps of mosques, in public parks, or even on the side of the road to be taken into the care of locals who stumble upon them.

According to a June 22, 2019 report from Syrians for Truth and Justice, there was an “alarming increase in the number of newborns being abandoned in Idlib and northern rural Aleppo.” The report warned that these abandoned infants “will be denied the rights to education and nationality, [and] will be rejected by society,” due to their lack of civil registration by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)-run Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in Idlib province and lack of access to government-controlled areas.

According to a governmental source, as of March 2018, around 300 cases of abandoned children were recorded in Damascus since 2011. Today, the Justice Department receives one child every two months on average.

21 Documented Cases in Idlib

The baby girl found by Mahmoud in al-Khowary is just one of the 21 infants who were abandoned in Idlib province during 2018 and the first half of 2019. SIRAJ documented and verified each case for this report, noting the sex of the infant, as well as the time and place they were found. Three of the documented abandoned infants, however, were dead by the time they were found. According to Muhammad al-Hallaj, the director of the Syrian humanitarian organization, Response Coordination Group, between four to eight cases of abandoned infants are recorded in Idlib province each month. Idlib, along with the western countryside of Aleppo province, is the last opposition stronghold in Syria and is currently controlled by HTS. province’s population was 165,000 in 2011, according to official statistics; today it stands at around four million, a result of various de-escalation agreements that transferred those unwilling to accept the terms of settlement and reconciliation agreements with the regime to northwest Syria.However, since the second half of 2019, Syrian government forces and its allied militias have carried out a fierce military campaign on Idlib province, capturing Khan Sheikhoun, Maarat al-Numan and Saraqeb, among other cities and towns. This latest military escalation has displaced around 875,000 people—most of them women and children—between December 1, 2019 and February 17, 2020, according to the UN OCHA spokesman, David Swanson.


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