Children at the orphanage in Sirte. Copyright: Maryline Dumas
Children at the orphanage in Sirte. Copyright: Maryline Dumas

In Misrata, a Red Crescent building that was once used for trainings has now been converted into an orphanage. This center, which provides humanitarian help, hosts orphaned children of “Islamic State” (IS) members who fought against Libyan forces in the neighboring city of Sirte.

The walls have been decorated with pink and blue ribbons, mattresses have been laid out on the floor for sleeping and the room has a television set showing cartoons. This orphanage has been set up in a rush, yet, the children are not unhappy. They are eager for hugs from their “uncles,” which is how they refer to the Red Crescent staff.

There are 24 children in the orphanage now, all between 9 months and 12 years of age. Investigations among the children and IS prisoners have helped reveal the first names and nationalities of some of the youngest orphans, who are unable to speak. Some of them have been able to go back to their families. Earlier, the Red Crescent had 60 children under its protection. 

“We contacted the Libyan children’s families, who took them back. Sudan also welcomed their children last August,” explained Ali Ghwell, spokesperson for Red Crescent. There have been no responses from Egypt or Tunisia. 

Sirte

Libyan troops were engaged in heavy battle with 'Islamic State' fighters in Sirte

But the organization has been busy dealing with more pressing issues, especially the children’s medical needs. “When the children arrived here from Sirte, some of them were injured, some had lost their hands or parts of their body,” Ali Ghwell said.

After the war, two-month-old babies were discovered buried alive under the ruins of buildings in Sirte. Other children were severely injured during the airstrikes. A little boy, still living in the center, had to have his forearm amputated. 

The children have suffered mental trauma as well, but their behavior has changed a lot since they arrived at the orphanage. “At the beginning they were introverts, because they experienced the war. They had some habits from the war, because there was a shortage - of food for example. They were calling each other Abu Ali, Abu Musab [a common Arab way of referring to each other],” explained Youssef Ali, the head of the center.

But the children seem to have forgotten the war nicknames of their fathers. They have recovered their health and are going to school. The Red Crescent hopes that the countries of these children will soon resume their responsibility and take these children back.

 

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