Meet 4-Month-Old Sherwan, or 'Warrior' a Child Without a Nation


An estimated 100,000 Syrian children have been born in exile since the start of the civil war.

The refugee crisis shaking the world has come to be narrowly defined as Syrians fleeing the war, trying to enter Europe. But the ones trying to enter the West are only a small fraction - less than 10 per cent of the millions of refugees for whom Europe remains out of reach. All this week, on Exodus, a special series on NDTV, we trace the invisible roots of the refugee crisis from its point of origin along the Syria Turkey border to the gates of a divided Europe.

Suruc, Turkey: In Arin Mirkan refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, not far from the Syrian border we meet 4-month-old Sherwan. He was born here, in this settlement of grey tents after his family fled their home town of Kobane, just across the border, when ISIS stormed that Kurdish stronghold in October last year.

That battle has given him his name, which means 'warrior'; his mother told us he was christened by Kurdish soldiers who fought in Kobane.

On the day we met Sherwan, he was fighting an attack of measles, which has left him sick and upset.

"We took him to the hospital," his mother Bes told us outside their tent with a rocker in a corner. "The doctors gave him some medicine and sent us back. But he's still unwell." She showed us red patches on his back and neck.

Sherwan, like thousands of babies born since Syrian war's bloody inception in 2011, faces a graver crisis- he is a child without a nation.

Turkey doesn't recognise children born in exile; to get recognition in Syria, torn apart by war, is often too complicated. Moreover, most families have come without identification papers, like the one that Azize shows us, as she holds her 6-month-old boy, Mohammad, in her arms. The small, maroon-coloured booklet is a Family Book that the Syrian government issues, establishing basic proof of identity.

"We didn't bring our identity papers," Sherwan's mother told us.

The camp, home to about 60 families is full of babies, born there or while in flight; their births unregistered.

Mohammad's family belongs to the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, but fled to Kobane when the war came to their doorstep. They were then displaced across the border.

"His father is working in Tel Abyad," said Azize. "We hope to move back soon and join him."

An estimated 100,000 Syrian children have been born in exile since the start of the civil war. Of them 60,000 alone may be in Turkey. Under Syrian law nationality is transmitted through the father. But most of these children are without fathers - some fighting in Syria, others missing or killed in combat.

In a nearby tent, Shefket, 11-months-old, sat with his toys in a playpen ringed with bricks. His father, Mohammad Mustafa, died fighting for the Kurdish militia in March this year. He was keeping the ISIS out from Kobane. "He fought bravely," his family told us. "He died a month after Shefket's birth." They showed us a cellphone image of Mohammed posing with a gun, his three children photoshopped to appear sitting by his feet.

Shefket and his two siblings have no identity papers, and no father. His grandmother told us she and her other son will protect him, but their fate looks uncertain as the war drags into another winter.

With no legal status as either Turkish citizens or Syrian refugees, access to education or healthcare will be difficult for these children.

These children may be without a nation, but their brush with war has only deepened a precocious sense of nationalism. Six-year-old Narin, who wanted to sing for the camera finally got her chance as the sun was setting over Arin Mirkan camp, named after a female Kurdish fighter, who in October last year, blew herself up in an attack on the ISIS in Kobane.

Narin's song was composed during the clash with ISIS. The lyrics mean:

'Kobane is sad today
The city is the tears in our eyes
The young are armed now
They are attacking the enemy with bombs
They are giving their lives for the city

Kobane was freed on a sunny day
Our comrade is dancing in celebration
She greets our people

Kobane is sad today'

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