Child beggars fill Mosul streets a year on from ISIL
A year on from Iraqi forces announcing the “liberation” of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the scars of the bloody nine-month offensive to oust the militants are still visible in the city.
“I sell tissues... I go out every day from seven in the morning to 10 at night,” 12-year-old Salem tells AFP, wiping sweat from his face as the sun beats down on the Nabi Younis junction in eastern Mosul.
His mother’s only child, Salem hopes to scratch out a living for the two of them.
His father was killed by jihadists before the push to retake Mosul began, leaving the family without a breadwinner.
But the group’s research has pointed to the “presence of 6,200 orphans in Nineveh, of which 3,283 whose parents were killed in the latest events in Mosul”, the organization’s head, Kedar Mohammed, told AFP.
Thin and dressed in tattered clothes, they trail pedestrians and extend hands to passing cars.
Some wash windows or sell tissues and water.
“My family was killed and our house was destroyed in the bombardment of the Old City,” 10-year-old Ali Bunyan told AFP, unable to hold back his tears.
Fighting destroyed nearly 90 percent of western Mosul’s Old City, which now lies in ruins and is devoid of any major reconstruction projects.
“I have no relatives now. I have to beg to support myself... I’ve been unable to find work because I’m young,” said Bunyan, who like many of the other children refused to speak about his current place of residence.
Nineveh provincial council member Khalaf al-Hadidi said that “until now, there is no real project or study either from the federal or local government to deal with this phenomenon”.
Finding a solution was becoming increasingly important, he said, “especially as the street children are exposed to various kinds of exploitation.”
Residents say gangs are turning the street children into organized groups, or forcing them to pay a fee to beg in public places.
“One day, as I was waiting for my appointment at a medical clinic, I watched an employee at the reception kick out a small girl that was begging,” said 35-year-old Mosul resident Abu Hamid.
“As she left, she told me she had been kicked out for refusing to increase the weekly agreed-upon fee,” he said.
“If they are left out in the streets... they will become useless members of society, and perhaps some of them will become criminals,” she said.
“This phenomenon counts as a criminal project and terrorism, and it creates a corrupt and psychologically damaged generation,” he said.