Teenage Inmates in Syria Lack Meals and Medication, Help Group Says

QAMISHLI, Syria — Youngster detainees at a jail in northeast Syria that was attacked by ISIS two weeks in the past are injured, hungry and thirsty, in line with the primary worldwide support employee to see them for the reason that siege.

“They only managed to say a couple of phrases: that they’re hungry, they want water, they want medical care,” mentioned the official, Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF Syria’s consultant, who visited the Sinaa jail on Saturday. Jail authorities allowed him to view the youngsters by way of small, barred home windows within the metal cell doorways however to not communicate with them.

The makeshift jail, within the metropolis of Hasaka, that was attacked on Jan. 20 by ISIS suicide bombers and gunmen held about 4,000 suspected ISIS fighters and about 700 youngsters. Fears over the youngsters’ security grew after the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is in command of this breakaway area of Syria, mentioned that ISIS gunmen had used a few of them as human shields in the course of the assault.

A whole lot of inmates had been killed over 10 days because the Syrian Democratic Forces and American floor forces fought to retake management of the jail from the terrorist group.

The S.D.F. mentioned it misplaced 40 fighters and 77 guards and different jail employees. However it has not revealed particulars of the youngsters’ fates and has barred entry to journalists — and, till Saturday, to assist organizations, like UNICEF and the Worldwide Committee of the Purple Cross, which is often the primary to go to detainees.

{A photograph} supplied by UNICEF to The New York Occasions confirmed the youngsters, their identities shielded, sitting barefoot on a damaged concrete and filth flooring with skinny mattresses lined finish to finish. Daylight by way of excessive home windows illuminated what appeared like blackened partitions. A number of the boys had blankets wrapped round their shoulders.

Credit score…UNICEF

“We noticed a whole lot of boys,” Mr. Nylund informed The Occasions on Sunday. “Fairly skinny and in want of a whole lot of companies, together with medical help.”

He mentioned that S.D.F. officers informed him on Saturday that there have been 700 detained minors — the identical quantity they gave earlier than the jail siege — and that he was proven “six or seven” cells, every with about 30 kids. Mr. Nylund estimated that the youngest prisoner he noticed was about 15.

He mentioned that the scent of smoke nonetheless hung within the air and that the jail’s partitions had been scorched, however that “they managed to get the fundamentals in place,” he mentioned, referring to the blankets and mattresses.

“However it’s been a battle zone,” Mr. Nylund added.

The youngsters have been held within the makeshift jail since they had been separated from girls and youthful kids after ISIS fell in 2019, and none have been earlier than a decide since being detained.

The S.D.F. has mentioned that the boys’ ties to the Islamic State make them harmful, and that among the older ones have been educated to battle, whereas human rights organizations take into account them victims, kids taken to the Islamic State by way of no alternative of their very own.

Up to now three years, few support organizations have been given even a glimpse of the youngsters, because the S.D.F. has restricted entry to them.

“We’ve been engaged on getting entry for the final yr plus,” Mr. Nylund mentioned of the Sinaa jail. “We’ve not spoken intimately to a single one in every of them.”

Final week, The Occasions noticed two our bodies that seemed to be these of youngsters amongst different our bodies discovered within the neighborhood across the jail the place residents reported seeing ISIS attackers in the course of the siege. Jail clothes was additionally among the many stays. About 200 ISIS fighters had attacked the jail to attempt to get away detained comrades, and it was not clear whether or not the boys had escaped with grownup prisoners or been taken hostage by them.

Mazlum Kobani, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, informed The Occasions {that a} “very small quantity” of the youngsters had been killed within the operation to retake the jail and to arrest ISIS fighters.

Human Rights Watch mentioned that two detainees had informed it that they noticed kids killed in the course of the combating for the jail, and that one other detainee described how a baby bled to loss of life in his arms.

An S.D.F. official informed The Occasions final week that the boys had been moved from the Sinaa jail to security in a more moderen facility, however Mr. Nylund, the UNICEF official, mentioned he noticed them in the identical place the place they had been held earlier than the assault.

“We’ve no data,” an S.D.F. spokesman, Ferhad Shami, mentioned on Sunday when requested concerning the discrepancy.

Mr. Nylund mentioned UNICEF hoped to first present assist to the youngest prisoners and to those that had been sick or wounded. After that, he mentioned, the U.N. group will attempt to set up case recordsdata for the youngsters, with the intention of repatriating foreigners to 3rd international locations. Most international locations have refused to repatriate prisoners or households in detention camps from this area of Syria.

“We’ll do it on the situation that we’ve got steady entry as a result of except we do, we’re getting used,” Mr. Nylund mentioned in an unusually blunt remark concerning the lack of entry provided by officers keen to indicate they’re working with worldwide organizations, however much less keen to allow them to in.

“Let’s see that there’s an precise willingness to take this to the following degree as a result of, so far, we’ve got not seen that this has truly occurred,” he mentioned.

UNICEF mentioned in a press release saying the go to that the youngsters needs to be transferred to the care of kid safety companies and that foreigners needs to be repatriated to their residence international locations.

“Youngsters related to and recruited by armed teams ought to at all times be handled as victims of battle,” it mentioned.

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