Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends : Parallels An orphanage in the Iraqi city of Mosul is caring for confused and unidentified children left in the wake of ISIS.
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Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

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Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When the American Civil War neared its end, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the need to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan. It's the orphans we speak of this morning - orphans of the war in Iraq.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The end of Iraq's war against the Islamic State has left a lot of children on their own. Some of them had parents who joined ISIS. Others were kidnapped to be raised by ISIS families. And some just don't even know who their parents are.

INSKEEP: Some of these stories are painful enough that we must warn there is a vivid account of violence in the next three minutes or so. NPR's Jane Arraf visited a home for Iraq's war orphans.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Habbibi hayati.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This baby is the darling of the orphanage staff.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: He's seven months old, and he laughs and gurgles when anyone picks him up. He's in a room of cribs lined end to end. He's wearing a white jumpsuit. And one of the sleeves hangs because he's missing an arm. One of the caregivers tells us his horrific story.

UM SUAD: (Through interpreter) ISIS left this baby out in the street as a way to lure the army into an ambush. The ISIS snipers shot three soldiers who were trying to save him. Poor things.

ARRAF: That's a caregiver who asked us to call her Um Suad. Before an Iraqi tank arrived to rescue the baby, a dog ran up and dragged him away by the arm. His arm had to be amputated after soldiers retrieved him. There are other infants recovering from their injuries, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hiya Miriam.

ARRAF: Mariam was just a week old when she was brought to the orphanage. Her entire family was killed when their house collapsed in the fighting. They're waiting until she's old enough for surgery to treat a broken rib. Most of these children, though, will never even know who their parents were.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Crying).

ARRAF: As some of the babies cry, a girl believed to be about 5 hovers near a crib. She makes eye contact, and she smiles, but she doesn't talk. Caregivers don't know if it's because she has disabilities or if she's traumatized.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2]: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "She doesn't understand when we speak to her in Arabic," says one of the caregivers. They're trying to find her family. They think she might be Yazidi, the religious minority targeted by ISIS, which killed their men and kidnapped their women and children. The caregivers ask our interpreter to see if she'll speak to him in Kurdish.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Kurdish).

ARRAF: He leans down, and he says to her, "what's your name, you brave, smart girl?" She doesn't answer. But when he asked her in Kurdish to bring him a ball, she understands, and she brings it to him.

SUKAINA ALI YOUNIS: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Sukaina Ali Younis is the orphanage founder. She's in charge of women's and orphans' affairs in Mosul. She introduces us to a girl and a boy, both about 5, kidnapped from their Yazidi families and raised by Turkish-speaking ISIS families. We ask the girl what her name is.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Turkish).

ARRAF: She answers in Turkish.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: (Speaking Turkish).

ARRAF: "I forgot." In the ethnic mix here, there are babies who are the children of Yazidi or Shia Turkmen mothers and ISIS fathers. Some of the young women were forced to marry their captors. Many were kept as sex slaves.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Crying).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Yazidi religious elders have decreed that women rescued from ISIS be welcomed back to the community, but that doesn't apply to the children fathered by ISIS militants. The women are normally forced by their families to give up the children, and some have ended up here.

YOUNIS: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Orphanage founder Younis picks up another little girl. Her father was an ISIS suicide bomber. For reasons we'll never know, her mother gathered her five children together and blew herself up. The little girl was the only one who survived. She seems OK. Younis says she named the toddler Farah, happy, in the hope that after all of this, she might have the chance of a happy life. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Mosul.

INSKEEP: Well, this afternoon, we continue our coverage on All Things Considered. And we will take you to the American base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where there are still dozens of prisoners. You can listen this afternoon on your local member station or by asking your smart speaker to play NPR.

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