The authorities want to be certain that these children will not constitute a public danger in the future.
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Hamza Turabekov persuaded his daughter currently imprisoned in Iraq to agree to bring her children to Tajikistan. However, four months after their return to the country, he still have not met his grandchildren.
Tajik authorities transferred children from Iraq to boarding schools and orphanages. However, children’s relatives are still waiting for permission to take kids into their care.
So far, out of the 84 children who returned from Iraq to Tajikistan, not even one has been returned to relatives. Representatives of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population and the Ministry of Education and Science revealed this fact during conversations with them.
Earlier, the authorities said that school-aged children would be sent to educational institutions, and preschoolers – to families.
In an interview to CABAR.asia, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan Shodihon Jamshed said that any relative or stranger can take these children into their care and adopt, in case if they have good living conditions.
He added that 44 children from one to five years old were placed in the orphanage No. 2 in Dushanbe. 33 school-aged children were accommodated in boarding schools and orphanages. Earlier, Shodihon Jamshed told Radio Ozodi that among those who returned from Iraq there were two underage girls with infants who were sent to technical and vocational education institutions of the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population.
Currently, four children are undergoing medical treatment, and the rest are healthy. The Deputy Minister promised that all the necessary medical services will be provided to the returned children.
“Returned Children Study Just as Other Students”
Ehson Hushbaht, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Education and Science, also confirmed to CABAR.asia that all school-aged children are enrolled in boarding schools and are currently studying with their peers.
“All the children who were returned from Iraq are under the supervision of the state, Government and the Ministry of Education and Science. From time to time, the Ministry’s working group also receives information about the situation and creates all necessary conditions for their living”, said Ehson Hushbaht.
Shodihon Jamshed, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection, told CABAR.asia that those who are placed in orphanages would gradually return to their relatives in accordance with their supporting documents and identification cards. Shodihon Jamshed declined to give detailed comments and emphasized that other departments are responsible for these children’s issues.
At the end of April, the Tajik authorities brought back to country 84 children of Tajikistan’s citizens from the territories of Syria and Iraq controlled by the IS terrorist group (banned in Tajikistan and other countries). The mothers of these and other children were imprisoned by the Iraqi authorities. The media reported that 35 families in Tajikistan applied for the adoption of these children.
However, in a conversation with CABAR.asia, some of these families’ members said that they had not yet taken children into their care. According to relatives, the children were transported from the Harangon health resort and placed in boarding schools and orphanages. However, the authorities do not specify the exact date when they will return the children to the families.
“I Prepared a Separate Room for My Two Granddaughters”
Some of the relatives told CABAR.asia that they have all the required conditions for taking children. Two granddaughters of Nuriddin Turanov, 60, resident of Panjakent (city in the north-west of the country) – Khadicha, 7, and Fatima, 4, – were returned from Iraq to their homeland along with other children and placed in the Harangon resort. Then, Khadicha enrolled in school. However, her grandfather Nuriddin still has not seen his granddaughter. The authorities promised that they would call soon, and he would be able to meet her.
About a month ago, Nuriddin Turanov met another granddaughter – Fatima, 4, who is accommodated in the orphanage No. 2 of the city of Dushanbe. According to him, the conditions there are good, and he was promised that they would return his granddaughter after the preparation of the necessary documents.
After his grandchildren returned to the country, Nuriddin Turanov spoke with his daughter-in-law, who is now imprisoned in Iraq. She said that the Tajik authorities promised to transfer the children to their close relatives.
“We want to take them into our care. I prepared a separate room for my granddaughters, prepared all the conditions for living. We are waiting for the authorities’ consent”, Nuriddin Turanov added.
“The Adaptation Process Will Not Be Easy for Children”
The officials state that children under three with the necessary documents are more likely to be handed over to the relatives, and school-aged children for some time will be allocated to educational institutions and orphanages. Officials believe that this group of children was subjected to psychological violence, and special programs are needed for their rehabilitation.
Children’s Ombudsman in Tajikistan, Rajabmoh Habibullozoda said at a press conference that the process of children’s adaptation would not be easy. According to her, in order for children to grow up in a good environment, first it is necessary to check well those who want to adopt them.
Ramazon Rahimzoda, Minister of the Interior, during the last press conference emphasized the negative influence of the war atmosphere on the mentality and thinking processes of children.
“We will implement all possible measures so that they can become adequate society members. So that they leave behind the ideology and mentality that they adopted there”, said Rahimzoda.
This July, the Ministry of Education and Science created special working groups to facilitate the adaptation process of children to their new life. The Ministry’s officials believed that these children’s preparation for the new school year would also be difficult. Some teens, for example, are not familiar with the Tajik alphabet. Nuriddin Said, Minister of Education and Science said at a press conference in July that they would create additional classes for these teenagers.
“The issues of providing food, clothing, health services and restoring relations with relatives are under control”, Said added.
“I Still Have Not Seen My Grandchildren…”
Hamza Turabekov, 50, a resident of Zafarobod district of the Sughd region, said that after he was informed that some of the children had been taken from the Harangon resort to the orphanage No. 2 in Dushanbe, he went there to visit his 4-year-old grandson. However, he did not find him there.
The officer of the State Committee for National Security accompanying him told Turabekov that he would not be able to see his grandson, since the latter was undergoing medical treatment. Authorities have promised that Turabekov will be able to see his grandson after his condition improves.
Neither did Turabekov see his another grandson, who is already five years old.
According to the officials of the State Committee for National Security, the child is in a boarding school, but they did not specify in which exactly. Thus, Turabekov has not yet been able to meet any of his grandchildren.
According to him, the children live in good conditions the orphanage No. 2 in Dushanbe. However, he says that they lack the love of their parents and grandparents.
“They got nobody else in Tajikistan, their fathers died, their mothers got a life sentence, I have to take care of them”, says Hamza Turabekov.
Hamza Turabekov’s wife, daughter and two sons first left for Syria, and then in 2015, crossed the Iraqi border, finding themselves in the territory controlled by the IS terrorist group (banned in Tajikistan and other countries). There is no news from the sons, but his daughter and wife were sentenced to life imprisonment in Iraq for “illegal border crossing” and “assisting terrorists” from the IS (banned in Tajikistan). Until his daughter contacted him from the prison in Baghdad, Turabekov did not know either about the departure to Syria of his ex-wife, with whom he had been divorced.
“The Daughter Agreed, but Made a Condition”
At first, Turabekov’s daughter did not agree to give permission for the deportation of her children to Tajikistan.
“Then they called me and asked to persuade her. She agreed on condition that I become the guardian of my grandchildren. However, after more than 120 days, the authorities did not return the children to me. I have prepared all the necessary accommodation for adoption with my other daughter and new wife, but it is not clear now what the authorities will decide”, added Hamza Turabekov.
He noted that some time ago, authorities allowed relatives to meet children of preschool age once a month.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Education and Science Ehson Hushbaht assured that relatives could always visit children in schools “without obstruction”.
“Also, the administrations of the boarding schools were required to report these children’s situation to the Ministry of Education and Science”, said Ehson Hushbaht.
He specified that school-aged children were allocated not only to boarding schools in Dushanbe, but also to other educational institutions of the country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross recommended the Tajik authorities to return these children to close relatives for upbringing so that they can quickly adapt to the new environment and life.
Why Are Children Not Returned to Relatives?
Psychologist Maryam Davlatova believes that having lived among the terrorists, all these children received serious psychological trauma. To solve this problem, the specialists’ assistance and a lot of time and effort are required.
“However, in a family circle, there is love that nothing can replace for children”, Davlatova emphasized.
She believes that the treatment process will go faster if relatives are allowed to visit children more often in boarding schools.
Davlatova believes that these children are not dangerous, since they are under 24/7 supervision of the boarding school.
Sociologist Nazri Asadzoda is also concerned about children’s mental health. He came to this conclusion after a conversation with psychologist Mahmadullo Davlatov, who, on behalf of the authorities, was conducting a study of the mental state of children brought from Iraq.
Nazri Asadzoda claims that some children consider those around them to be “kaafirs” (infidels) who need to be killed.
For this reason, he said, these minors should not be left unattended for now.
“Changing the extremist and dangerous views of children requires on the one hand, more time, and on the other hand, the experts’ assistance. Given the extremist views of these minors, it is better to keep them in special conditions and provide them with psychological and educational support from experienced professionals. To continue such work will be in the interests of both children and society”, said Nazri Asadzoda.
According to him, there is no guarantee that in family conditions, without the special scientific approaches and assistance of a specialist, the mentality of these children can be changed.
“This is especially true for those families that hold radical fundamentalist views”, said Nazri Asadzoda.
This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia».