Idlib (AsiaNews) – Organ trafficking involving children from Idlib (northwestern Syria) has become another source of concern like the smuggling of archaeological items, oil and weapons.
According to a number of reports, children have been kidnapped in broad daylight by “unknown” groups able to move around unhindered and unpunished in spite of roadblocks and controls set up by Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) armed militias.
Families that managed to save their children from forced enrollment by Saudi imam Abdallah Al Muhasni in an around the city of Idlib now live in fear. In fact, the city has recently seen a frightening increase in the number of children abducted or "held" by these unknown groups.
Some 15 children have reportedly gone missing in the past two weeks, one a day, in villages around Idlib like Kafaruma, Jidar Yakfalun, Atme, Jisr el Shughur, and Al Fukayea.
In Kfarbatikh, however, two kidnapping attempts failed thanks to the quick response of residents, alarmed by the cries for help of would-be victims. The kidnappers managed to escape leaving behind their two children.
Yasser Mohamad Ibrahim was not so lucky. The 14-year-old fled Mork with his parents to avoid forced conscription by Jihadis only to be kidnapped in El Maarath Naaman in front of his parents' home in late afternoon yesterday.
Last week another case had a positive outcome. Unknown men forced a little girl into a white van in Sarmada, a village north of Idlib, but in an act of solidarity villagers reacted immediately chasing the vehicle until the nearby village of Al Dana where they freed the 10-year-old and handed the kidnappers over to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
On the same day, a young man in his 30s, Muhamad Kasem Najla, was abducted in Dana, possibly by organ traffickers. Although his kidnappers were captured and jailed, they managed to escape without leaving a trace before they could be questioned or tried.
Children, who in the Middle East tend to play in the streets near their homes, have stopped doing so. Parents and families in Idlib avoid as much as possible letting their children out of the house. Fewer and fewer children are in school or even involved in child labour, once a widespread local practice.
Many families who settled around Idlib to escape the direct grip of extremists are now moving to the city of Hama, considered safer in terms of kidnapping and organ trafficking.
Increasingly, social media warn parents to be vigilant about their children in light of the danger of kidnapping related to organ trafficking, advising them not let their children out of the house or move around them without adults.
According to online activists, kidnapped children are taken to neighbouring Turkey, as in the case of two girls abducted last April in the northern neighbourhoods of Jisr al-Shughur. In another case, two children were taken from the Atma refugee camp, north of Idlib.
Two years ago, Turkish media – when they still enjoyed some freedom of the press – had denounced the presence of "ambulances involved in trafficking of human organs under the disguise of moving wounded people to hospitals in Turkey near the border with Syria”. (PB)