Nigeria’s Stolen Daughters is a moving and terrifying insight into Nigeria’s brutal civil war. On 14th April 2014, 276 school girls aged between 16 and 18 were kidnapped form a school in Chibok, northern Nigeria. They were taken by Boko Haram, a violent Islamic insurgent movement, and hidden in the vast Sambisa forest. Following a global social media campaign around the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, featuring global celebrities and Michelle Obama, huge pressure was brought to bear on the Nigerian Government to get the girls back.
Four years later more than 100 of the girls have been freed – they have been kept in a secret safe house in the capital Abuja. For the first time TV cameras have been granted access to the girls and in this powerful 60-minute documentary we follow them as they adapt to life after their traumatic imprisonment at the hands of Boko Haram.
The Chibok Girls live in a gilded cage, cut off from contact with the world’s media and provided with education and counselling that continues as they move into government funded places at the American University of Nigeria.
Their fate could not be more different to the thousands of other Nigerian women and children who have fallen prey to Boko Haram.
In the brutalised city of Maidugari we meet some of these Forgotten Girls. They have deeply disturbing stories of their treatment at the hands of Boko Haram and their troubles haven’t ended on their escape from the forest – in Maidugari they are often treated with suspicion because of their connection with Boko Haram.
Female suicide bombers have killed scores of people in the city. And for the Forgotten Girls there are none of the privileges afforded the Chibok Girls – many live hand to mouth in the slums and refugee camps, abandoned by the Nigerian state.
In an operation during the Gulf War, eight British Special Air Services soldiers are dropped 140 miles behind enemy lines to take out a network of Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile launchers. The mission goes wrong and within days, three men are dead and four are captured.
Chris Ryan shares his journey to freedom, walking 200 miles and surviving for eight days without supplies.
National Geographic Channel’s gripping new series, No Man Left Behind: Episode Four.
No Man Left Behind details the gruesome survival stories of war heroes and special agents from past battles and missions.
The soldiers’ stories are enough to send chills up your spine. As they retell their experiences, it is clear how much the battle affected the individuals. The men came close to death, and watched many of their friends die horrible deaths in battle.
As one of the soldiers put it, “Not a day goes by where at some point I don’t think about something in the streets of Mogadishu.”
The soldiers gained a new appreciation for their comrades, forming an unbreakable bond that still keeps them close to this day. In the face of such adversity, the soldiers gain a new appreciation for life, love and friendship. 
Titled “A Girl In The River”, this Oscar-winning documentary by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy tells the story of Saba Qaser, the Pakistani girl who survived being shot in the face, and then thrown in the river by her own father.
You can listen to the interview from Steve Inskeep’s sit-down with the film’s creator, Sharmeen.
The following is a transcript of Steve’s interview with filmmaker, Sharmeen:
STEVE INSKEEP: Saba Qaiser’s wedding day was almost the day of her death. She grew up in Pakistan in a traditional family. At 19, she eloped with a young man whom her family considered too poor. Her decision was the start of an excruciating story.
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY: She defied the family. She decided to get married despite the resistance that her family had to the young man she wanted to get married to. And so to teach her a lesson and to teach the other girls in the family a lesson, they decided to kill her.
INSKEEP: That’s filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. She just won an Oscar for her documentary called “A Girl In The River.” The title says what her family did to Saba Qaiser. Her own father and uncle shot her and threw her in a river. It was an attempted honor killing. These killings are common in Pakistan and in many other nations. Ordinarily, we would have heard nothing more about it.
OBAID-CHINOY: It remains within the family. No one files a case. Court cases are not processed. You don’t even know who the women are. Sometimes it’s an unmarked grave. Oftentimes, the body’s not been found.
INSKEEP: But in this case something different happened. Saba Qaiser turned out to have incredible strength. Though horribly wounded, she pulled herself out of the river and survived to tell her story to police and to the filmmaker.
OBAID-CHINOY:I think it was very important to tell the honor killing story from the point of view of a survivor. Unfortunately, 99 percent of the cases the women perish, unable to tell their stories. Saba survived. Not only did she survive, she fought back. She got out of the river. She found a local fuel station. And the beauty of the story is that in this small town, the social services worked for Saba. The paramedics picked her up. She was taken to a local government hospital, which was run by a fantastic doctor who got his best surgeons to save her life. The local police in charge sent out investigators to find her father and her uncle and eventually did and jailed them.
INSKEEP: I just want to mention that in addition to interviewing the young woman, you end up interviewing the father and the uncle. You interviewed just about every player in this drama. I began this experience thinking that maybe there was going to be some dramatic hopeful change. What actually happened?
OBAID-CHINOY: Well, Saba was very determined to fight the case. She wanted to make examples of her father and her uncle. There is a line in the film where she says that, you know, I want them to be shot in public so that no other man, no other father and no other uncle, no other brother does this to a woman in his family. And when I first met her, she had this fire in her. And she had a wonderful pro bono lawyer.
They went to court. They began the proceedings. But the law did not support her. In Pakistan, in cases of honor killings, the way it works unfortunately is that if a father kills his daughter his wife can forgive him. If a brother kills a sister, the parents can forgive. In this case, because Saba survived, the community members, the neighborhood, they said that they would ostracize the in-laws if she did not forgive.
Through the process of the film, you see her losing hope. And towards the end, she does go to court and pardon her father and the uncle. By the time Saba forgive, I thought that she had actually just succumbed to society. But she said something to me towards the end of the film which really stayed with me, which is I forgive them for the world. I forgive them because of my family pressure and because of society pressure. But in my heart, they will always be unforgiven.
INSKEEP:What happened when you went and found the father and found the uncle? They’re behind bars temporarily, and you talked with them. What did they say?
OBAID-CHINOY: The father and the uncle were defiant. They believed that what they did was right and that they would go back and do it again. Her father said to me, looking straight at me, that yes, she’s my daughter. I wanted to kill her. I provided her with food, shelter. How dare she defy me? How dare she go out without my permission? And I am ready to spend my entire life in jail because this is something that I’ve done for my honor, the honor of my family. She has shamed us.
INSKEEP: Now, when he said those things, I thought about it afterward. And I wondered if his idea of honor actually meant money or a concept of property. He’s saying I spent all this time and money nurturing this girl. I should be able to be the one to sell her off now. Is that what he was saying?
OBAID-CHINOY: Absolutely. I mean, he said something like I used to feed her three times a day. You know, you feed animals three times a day as well. He didn’t look at her as another human being.
INSKEEP: You asked him where it said in the Koran that he could kill her. Although he turned it around in on you and said where in the Koran does it say she can run away?
OBAID-CHINOY: Yes. And at that point, I chose not to argue with him because I was extremely angry because these men get away with saying that this has something to do with religion when it absolutely has nothing to do with religion. You know, I mean, one of the most interesting things about the Muslim faith is that when a woman is getting married, a cleric has to ask her three times if she agrees to that marriage. If she hesitates even once, he is not to marry her off. So how can that religion condone honor killings?
INSKEEP: What are we to make of this case that you explore? Because you point out, it’s a best-case scenario. There are laws against this sort of thing. There were local authorities willing to try to enforce the laws. In the end, nothing happened. Where does that leave Pakistan? Where does that leave women?
OBAID-CHINOY: Well, the film has created quite a stir in Pakistan. The prime minister came out and said that he wanted to work on the issue of honor killings. And he has since then met with me. He has spoken to members of his political party. They are going to be working to plug the loopholes in the law making sure that there is no forgiveness in cases of honor killings. You know, I think that the prime minister was inspired to come out and speak about this issue saying that there is no place for honor killings in Islam and that we must make that clear to everybody.
INSKEEP: So the solution that’s envisioned here is telling judges you can no longer dismiss these cases. You can’t…
INSKEEP: …Just take a little testimony and let it go away.
OBAID-CHINOY: So if this law passes, honor killings will be a crime against the state, not against an individual, which means the state has to prosecute and you cannot forgive.
INSKEEP: Although I’m just thinking of the justice system in Pakistan, a lot of things can go wrong there.
OBAID-CHINOY: A lot of things can go wrong. But Steve, if in a town three or four people go to jail for it, the fifth will think twice before shooting somebody in his family.
INSKEEP: Which is the opposite of the situation now. You interview the father after he’s released from jail. And he effectively says I got away with this, and now I know my other daughters will behave.
OBAID-CHINOY: Not only that – he is a hero in his community because he walked away free. Now, had he spent his lifetime in jail, the men who live in his neighborhood would have thought twice about doing this to their daughters, to their wives. But now they too know that if they go ahead and kill somebody in their family that they will walk free. It is a very, very bad sign to send to people and one that needs to end very quickly in Pakistan.
INSKEEP: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, thanks very much.
OBAID-CHINOY: Thank you.
Coming Soon. Watch this inspiring film “A Girl In The River” inside our Documentaries section.
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Having fled Islamic State and crossed the border, a lost generation skips school for a life of back-breaking hardship.
Khaled, a 12-year-old boy, said his parents were too poor to send him to school. Instead he toils in the fields for two five-hour shifts when the work is available, earning the equivalent of $4 for each shift. The money goes to support his parents and six siblings in their refugee settlement – three of the children are too young to work.
“The kids are faster, and when you have a house with 10 children, six of them big and four small, well, the big ones carry the small ones so they can live,” said one of the farmers who works with child labourers.
The 12-year-old cousins from Raqqa were taking a rest after their five-hour shift in the lettuce field. It was early afternoon, a light breeze taming the July sun, and it was time for them to go home to their tents. It’s not yet the season to harvest the cannabis in the neighbouring field – that will have to wait until September.
“You saw what it’s like,” said one of the boys, a shy smile rarely absent from his tanned face, after hours bent over in the field. “We’d like to go to our country. We’re exhausted working on the lettuce, but we’re used to it now.” It’s normal, they said, for them to work.
“They need the workers so their project doesn’t fail,” said the other boy, laughing as he ran off after a dozen other teenage labourers piling into the pickup truck that would take them home.
All the youngsters here, aged between seven and 20, are from Syria and earn about $8 a day for 10 hours’ work in the fields of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the agricultural hinterland that abuts the Syrian border.
These children’s day begins before sunrise, when a Syrian foreman collects them from the camps strewn across the Bekaa Valley. Early on in the Syrian crisis, the chronically dysfunctional Lebanese government decided it was political dynamite to build official refugee camps, so the displaced are left to live in makeshift tent settlements and shelters in the countryside.
The government was wary of building permanent dwellings for the refugees – the country has a delicate sectarian balance that would have been overwhelmed by an influx of mostly Sunni civilians fleeing the war. The Palestinian refugee camps built in the 1940s and 1950s after the establishment of the state of Israel are still home to more than 400,000 Palestinians who played a key role in the country’s 15-year civil war.
The arrangement has meant that many Syrian refugees have entered the workforce. The vast majority are women or children, and many of the men are infirm and are anyway legally barred from work, at the risk of incurring large fines for doing so.
Not all the children have become labourers because of the war, though that has vastly boosted their numbers. Many, from Raqqa in particular, often travelled [sic] to Lebanon in summer to work in the fields, earning some money before returning home for school.
Now Raqqa is Islamic State’s seat of power, and many of the children have stayed in Lebanon, working all year in fields and produce warehouses. Some go to local “tent schools” established by Unicef in collaboration with local NGOs, but many skip classes to work in the fields and feed their families. “The children have become used to it – most work from when they’re eight,” said one of the local foremen. “They wake at 5am and finish work at 8pm, wash and sleep. That’s their life.”
But it is hard to get used to working for 10 hours in the scorching sun or biting cold of the Bekaa Valley. Aisha, 20 – her name has been changed, like those of others quoted here – has been working in the fields for 10 years, but said she stayed at home last week after going down with heatstroke.
“We adapted because we have no other work,” she said, taking a break from shovelling soil around lettuce heads. Nearby, in addition to the cannabis field, are onion, almond and okra orchards. Aisha works with two of her sisters, one of whom was on the verge of finishing high school when the war broke out. Now none of them goes to school or college – their parents are too old to labour now.
“Five hours for $4 is unfair,” she said, adding that most of the money goes to buying dough to make bread because they can’t afford much in the way of vegetables. Dinner is often bread and fried potatoes. “I just want to rest. Our life is all work,” she said.
They seem to have a healthy rapport with their employers, who laugh and joke with the children, but Aisha said it’s not always that way – her previous employer would often mistreat the children if they took so much as a few minutes’ rest.
“This employer is a kind person, but others were not,” she said. “They would treat us like cattle.”
Ali, a local farmer, said he tries to reduce the children’s work hours or give them additional money on occasion, and at least they do not have to carry very heavy loads, but he said they had no choice but to hire the youngsters. Lebanon imposed very cumbersome entry requirements on refugees this year, which have slashed the number of new arrivals from Syria, despite the ferocity of the war.
Beyond the humanitarian burden, Lebanon’s infrastructure is stretched to breaking point.
It has the highest per capita refugee population in the world, with 1.1 million registered with the UN High Commission, out of a total prewar population of four million. The country has nearly reached its projected population levels for 2050.
“There are no older people,” Ali said. “The border is closed and they need sponsors. Who’s going to sponsor them? Everybody who can, works.”
He added: “It’s the war that has made them start out this early.”
A promising student who dreamed of going to university, Mary was sixteen when a woman approached her mother at their home and offered to take the Nigerian teenager to Italy to find work. Pushed to go by her family who hoped she would lift them out of poverty, Mary ended up being trafficked into prostitution.
Her voice faltering, Mary described three years of being forced to sell her body, beatings, threats at gunpoint and being made to watch as a fourteen-year-old virgin was raped with a carrot before being sent on to the streets of Turin in northwest Italy.
After being arrested by Italian police, Mary was repatriated to Nigeria’s southern Edo state in 2001, but she was rejected by her family and left feeling like a failure.
“I returned with nothing,” Mary, now 35, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Benin city in Edo. “I hated myself.”
While Mary’s ordeal ended fifteen years ago, a soaring number of Nigerian girls like her are being trafficked to Europe – mainly Italy – and forced to sell sex by gangs taking advantage of the chaos caused by the migrant crisis, anti-slavery activists say.
Thousands of women and girls are lured to Europe each year with the promise of work, then trapped by huge debts and bound to their traffickers by a religious ritual – the curse of juju.
“The victims are getting younger as girls, mainly those in rural areas, are more likely to focus on the positive stories of those who made it to Europe and didn’t end up in prostitution,” said Katharine Bryant of the Walk Free Foundation rights group.
She spoke ahead of the launch of the third Global Slavery Index, which found Nigeria has the world’s eighth highest number of slaves – 875,500 – and is a key source country for women trafficked to Europe and sold into sex work.
BOUND BY JUJU
More than 9 in 10 of the Nigerian women trafficked to Europe come from Edo, a predominantly Christian state with a population of about 3 million, according to the United Nations.
While Edo is not among the country’s poorest states, its history of migration to Italy has fuelled locals’ hopes of easy money in Europe – leaving people vulnerable to traffickers, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
Before going to Europe, women and girls must sign a contract with traffickers to finance their move, racking up debts of up to $100,000. They then must seal the pact with a juju ritual.
“I was taken to a native doctor’s shrine, and told to bite the neck of a chicken to add its blood to a concoction made with bits of my hair and fingernails, and my underwear,” Mary said.
This belief in black magic means victims fear they or their family may fall ill or die if they do not pay off their debts.
Most of the women and girls know they will have to sell sex but are pressured by their families and deceived by traffickers, said Nigeria’s anti-human trafficking agency (NAPTIP).
Many have no idea they will live under the control of older “madams” and be forced to work for several years to clear their debts, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Madams, who make up almost half of traffickers in Nigeria, are mostly former victims who target others in order to escape prostitution – perpetuating a cycle of exploitation, the UNODC said in its latest global report on human trafficking.
Traffickers and gangs in Nigeria are now exploiting Europe’s migration crisis – moving girls to lawless Libya, before crossing the Mediterranean to Italy on flimsy, overloaded boats, said Bryant from the Walk Free Foundation.
More than 5,600 Nigerian women and girls arrived in Italy by sea last year, up from 1,200 in 2014, and at least four in five were trafficked into sex work, the IOM said.
At least 1,250 Nigerian women have landed in Italy this year, up from 373 for the same period in 2015, IOM data shows.
Traffickers also take victims to Europe by plane, using forged documents and flying via other West African countries to avoid suspicion, said Mikael Jensen of the UNODC.
British airports such as Gatwick are increasingly used as entry points by Nigerian trafficking gangs with forged documents, Spanish police said earlier this year.
“Many traffickers are careful with their goods, they don’t want to risk them on a dangerous sea crossing,” Jensen said.
About 3,770 migrants and refugees died in 2015 crossing the Mediterranean, making it the deadliest year on record for those fleeing conflict and poverty, according to the IOM.
Human trafficking by Nigerian organised crime gangs is one of the greatest challenges facing police forces across Europe, according to the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol.
A lack of coordination between European states and Nigeria is allowing traffickers to act with impunity, said Kevin Hyland, who was appointed Britain’s first anti-slavery chief in 2014.
“There has been some progress, but it’s been a piecemeal plan, and responsive rather than proactive,” Hyland said.
Nigerian anti-trafficking official Arinze Orakwe said more European nations should criminalise the purchase of sex to curb the number of Nigerians trafficked into prostitution in Europe.
“If nobody is buying, nobody will sell,” said the official at NAPTIP, which has rescued some 1,340 victims in Nigeria over the past year, and works with NGOs to support them.
The Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF) clothes and feeds victims, provides counselling and attempts to reunite them with their families.
“But sometimes families are hostile, and not interested in getting them back,” said WOTCLEF coordinator Veronica Umaru.
Disillusioned by her parents’ disappointment at her return home, Mary hoped to go back to Italy before being referred to Girls’ Power Initiative, a Nigerian NGO that housed her, trained her to run a business and encouraged her to help other victims.
Yet Mary says many former victims have been re-trafficked to Italy, and fears not enough is being done to stop traffickers or persuade women and girls not to go abroad and into prostitution.
“Girls today, unlike me, know exactly what they are in for when they agree to go to Italy to work,” Mary says tearfully.
“But they do not understand the trauma they will face.”
In a bustling office in the suburbs of the Kurdish city of Dohuk, eleven-year-old Raed quietly begins to recount his ordeal at the hands of ISIL. It does not take long for his eyes to well up.
Raed is one of the few children who have escaped from ISIS camps. Thankfully he was granted leave to visit his mother, who was being kept as a slave in Raqqa; she was smuggled out with her children during his stay.
Florian Neuhof, writes in his article for The National: The diminutive, soft-spoken Yazidi boy had been earmarked as a future jihadist and potential suicide bomber by ISIL, which is grooming the next generation of fighters for its self-proclaimed caliphate in camps set up for this purpose.
Hundreds of Yazidi boys have been forced to undergo the brutal training after being taken from their parents when ISIL attacked Iraq’s northern Sinjar region in August 2014.
Raed struggles to hold back his tears as the memories come flooding back.
“I forgot about some things, but other things are more difficult to forget. I can’t get them out of my head,” he says.
Raed spent eight months in a camp called Farouk near Raqqa, ISIL’S main stronghold in Syria, where about a hundred boys were subjected to a gruelling daily routine aimed at forging the model jihadi. He says roughly half of them were fellow Yazidis who had been forced to convert to Islam. The others were children of ISIL members sent there by their parents.
The boys were woken at four in the morning for prayers, the start of a long day filled with military training and indoctrination.
They were forced to watch videos of beheadings and other violent deaths,gory propaganda that has become a trademark of ISIL’s recruitment efforts. If they failed to memorise the Quran, they were beaten.
Snatched from their families and subjected to constant manipulation, the boys began to absorb the extremist group’s toxic ideology.
“I started believing the things they taught me. Many of the kids in the camp have been indoctrinated,” says Raed.
To turn them into effective fighters, the boys at Farouk camp were taught how to shoot Kalashnikovs and machine guns. Propaganda material that ISIL has released online shows boys dressed in combat fatigues brandishing weapons and practising martial arts. Their hair is closely cropped and they wear black bandannas with the ISIL logo around their head.
The cruel irony is that the Yazidi boys are being brainwashed into becoming loyal servants of the group that devastated their community.
Estimates vary, but ISIL is believed to have kidnapped about 5,000 peoplewhen its fighters stormed into Sinjar, seeking to eradicate the ancient Yazidi religion that they regard as devil worship. The women and girls were sold to ISIL members as sex slaves and servants in Iraq and Syria, while many of the boys ended up in the camps. The men were rounded up and shot.
The terror group has reportedly executed more than 10,000 civilians, including women and children, in Iraq and Syria from June 2014 to October 2016 when this statics was published.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIL has five training camps for boys in Syria. There are at least two such camps in Iraq, in Mosul and the nearby town of Tel Afar, according to a Yazidi teenager who was trained at both places.
Abu Shija, a Yazidi who helps smuggle members of the community out of ISIL areas, estimates that there are about 600 Yazidi boys in the camps in Syria, cut off from the outside world and closely guarded.
“We have only been able to rescue a small number of them so far, unfortunately. It has become very difficult to get these children back. Some of our people have died trying to rescue them,” he says.
According to figures provided by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), only thirteen (13) of the six-hundred-three (603) Yazidi boys freed in Syria and Iraq so far were snatched from the camps.
We’ve all seen news reports of the migrant crisis and of course you watch with interest and sympathise with the mother with her infant, evidently struggling. We say ‘God, this is awful’ and then go and make a cuppa.
I started off in Lesbos. When I arrived, the situation was that only Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians were allowed to continue through Greece’s northern borders into Europe. Anyone not from these countries, was stuck, they weren’t going anywhere.
As I stood at the port in Lesbos on our first day of filming, I realised I had completely underestimated the enormity of the situation. I was stunned as thousands of people stumbled off the boats towards me.
Some of the kids were soaked through and sobbing, their faces blue from the cold. They’d spent hours in the water.
I’ll never forget a beautiful little girl coming off the boat with a split mouth. She’d obviously taken a bang somewhere along the way and was covered in dried blood. She was tiny and I immediately wanted to sweep her up and sort her out with a big cuddle. It pinpointed the centre of the dilemma – human empathy and a humanitarian crisis has to be weighed up against divided political opinion and security realities.
Many of the families had walked from Syria or Afghanistan, through Iran to Turkey, slept in deserts, squeezed into the boots of cars, hiked over snow covered mountains and slept in forests. It was months since they had sold their belongings, packed up their childhood memories and left their homes for the last time.
The conversations I had in the camps on Lesbos will stay with me always. Family after family would explain how they were dodging bombs on a daily basis, that their kids were forced to witness executions themselves or be shown the lifeless bodies afterwards.
One Mum told me that her young lad had stopped talking and was almost now mute – traumatised by what he had been forced to witness.
As I travelled [sic] to mainland Greece, we got news that the border to Macedonia was shut to Afghans. Only Iraqis and Syrians were now allowed to go further into Europe. It was decided that there were too many economic migrants coming from Afghanistan for better lives in Europe, and now no one from Afghanistan was allowed through to claim asylum in other European countries. They would have to stay in Greece.
We met an Afghan family who had just arrived at Athens’ port to the devastating news. Sayed, the father told me, whilst holding his severely disabled child, that he was an actor in a soap series back home. His storyline dealt with women rights. The Taliban objected. He was told they would burn him and his family alive.
He was a bright, educated individual who loved his country and wanted to stay. But I guess he loved his family more. He broke down as he told me that one of the kids in his boat crossing to Greece from Turkey had drowned. I’ll never get his story of that night out of my head.
He watched that boy’s family try to save him as they all floated on a rubber dinghy in the middle of the night, in the middle of the sea. He held his own kids tightly. They had no lifejackets, they couldn’t afford them.
The hope that I’d seen in mothers’ faces in Lesbos, was replaced with desperation in Athens. Families built themselves tents out of thermal blankets, attaching them to trees. One ten year old girl told me they had nowhere to sleep. Her whole family had nowhere in the world they could go. It’s OK they told me,
“The Europeans (governments) are all sitting at the same table now and they are talking. We will just wait to hear what they say.”
I continued up north to Idomeni camp, near the Macedonian border where the situation was at breaking point.
Macedonia had been tightening the border for days and today, no one was allowed through. The thousands of people waiting all believed the border was about to shut for good.
They were right.
There were 7,000 people there when I arrived, now there are 12,000 still waiting for the border to open.
It was pouring with rain, thunder and lightning ripped through the sky. Hungry families were losing patience and faith. I felt humbled accompanying them on their journey and grateful at the hospitality of families who had nothing, but still invited me to join their campfire and have some tea.
The camp had already run out of tents, blankets and food.
I met a fifteen- year-old lad travelling on his own. I was really worried about him. He only had a blanket, no shelter from the rain. I asked him if he was frightened but he said after living in Syria, he had no fear left.
As I was in one of the tents, where about 100 Syrian families were living, the frustration broke through. They’d had enough with not knowing when they would leave. Their choices seemed to either be claim asylum in a country that can’t offer them jobs or to make a run for it through the razor wire fence.
Their children were tired and sick.
“Tomorrow at 11:00”, they shouted, “we will protest at the border and demand they open it!”
“We will go hunger strike, we will make the world remember that we are here and we can’t go anywhere.” That night they announced a protest that is still going on. The border hasn’t reopened.
I couldn’t help but think, with such massive numbers of people moving through informal borders with no papers – it is very possible that many people aren’t who they say they are.
They told me they are fleeing war, bombs, brutality, fear, dictators, hunger, fear and uncertainty.
I’m sure that some of them were economic migrants taking advantage of the situation and trying to move to Europe. Can we be sure that terrorist sympathisers aren’t slipping through? Of course we can’t, no one can. Borders exist for a reason, and people who get through with no papers can confuse that situation. On the other hand the Human Rights Act exists for exactly this reason – so that people with legitimate claim of asylum can be assessed and given their right to a peaceful life.
The recent EU Turkey deal now deports all migrants who arrive in Greece back to Turkey. There they can make an asylum claim to stay in Turkey or they can return to their homes. A few hundred might be chosen to be resettled in Europe. Families like Sayed’s might have made the dangerous dinghy crossing for nothing.
Many Europeans, understandably, are concerned about the consequences of such a large influx of people into their countries. And I can’t begin to think what a solution to a complex crisis like this looks like. It is not for me to judge such choices from the comfort of this country and my own home. All I can do is report on what I have seen.
During my whole journeyI kept returning to a simple thought that I want to share.
If I was a young kid or teenager on the migrant trail, what view of humanity would I grow up with?
The anguished, tear-soaked face of a father cradling his baby daughter’s lifeless body has given rise to a global cry of outrage and shaming directed at the United Nations.
Her name is Zainab, and here is her little figure wrapped in a blue, paper shroud, with her tiny face so pale against the cheek of her weeping father – and for the moment media’s attention has turned to the inhumanity of the Saudi-led attack inside Yemen.
Yet, the question remains unanswered, will the world leaders finally hear the cries of thousands, no, millions of Yemenis begging for mercy and humanity from the United Nations to save their children?
“Silence of the world is killing the children in Yemen,” said Mohammed Alharthy, CEO of Your Ability Organisation for Development in Sana’a, Yemen.
The coalition wars on “terrorism” in the Middle East has been turned into an indiscriminate war on innocent civilians. I make no apology for saying that every death of a Yemeni child in this war is blood spilled on the United Nations Charter of Rights. From the first day of Saudi Arabia’s so-called “war on ISIS“ inside the small Republic of Yemen, evidence to the contrary has been videoed and reported by media; testimony has been filed and presented to the UN Human Rights and Security Council; and social media supplies a constant stream of corroborating accounts of the war crimes committed on civilians inside Yemen.
And all evidence points to a horrific genocide of the Yemeni men, women and children; where not even babies sleeping in their crib are safe from enemy airstrikes.
Little Zainab’s death has been felt around the world, the rippling effect from the wings of a butterfly stilled before she had a chance to fulfill her destiny.
It was only last month when her father Ibrahim wrote to me, and told me his story, of how last July (2015) he went to sleep one night being blessed with a family; a healthy wife, two handsome young sons, and a beautiful daughter – whom had not yet celebrated her first birthday. He named her Zainab, and when Ibrahim wrote me with his story, I looked up the meaning of her name, and upon reading it, caused me to weep.
Zainab means ‘a fragrant flowering plant‘ or ‘Desert Flower‘ implying that the girl is respectful and beautiful. Zaynab is also the name of the daughter and granddaughter of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. After you read his story, you may understand why her name brought tears to my eyes.
This is the story of how one family’s life was destroyed by an airstrike in the night. He is not a soldier. His family members are not political activists. Nor was his home hiding fighters from either side.
In Ibrahim’s own words, translated from Arabic to English.
To read his statement in Arabic click here.
Below the doctor desperately tries to resuscitate little Zainab.
The following footage is from a Sana’a news station reporting on the bombing of Ibrahim’s home.
The latest report on Iraq’s refugee crisis from International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) identified five-hundred and sixty-nine thousand, seven-hundred and twenty-two (569,722)families forced to flee their homes from January 1st 2014 to the 31st of March 2016; accounting for a total of three-million, four-hundred and eighteen thousand, three-hundred and thirty-two (3,418,332) men, women and children internally displaced Iraqis living in sub-humane conditions.
Considering available information, the UN Humanitarian Country Team has increased the humanitarian response planning figure from 3.3 million to 3.4 millioninternally displaced persons (IDPs).
Last month (March 2016) between the 2nd to the 31st, an increase in displacement was recorded in the governorates of Anbar at 48,378 individuals and in Salah al-Din 23,718 individuals are homeless due to ongoing military operations.
As of the 31st of March, the total IDP population in this report comes from eight of Iraq’s eighteen governorates; most of them are originally from the governorates of Anbar with (43 percent or 1,486,866 individuals) and Ninewa at (33 percent or 1,125,414 individuals).
Anbar is currently reporting multiple population movements due to ongoing conflict, including in the district of Heet. Repeated displacement flows have been observed from Heet to Ramadi district, where more than 30,000 IDPs were identified between March and April 2016. This complex situation is further exacerbated by internal displacement affecting some areas of Ramadi district.
Since the beginning of March, within Anbar governorate, DTM Emergency Tracking identified an estimated 71,000 returnees(11,800 families) who have returned to their habitual residences in areas of Ramadi district, from within and outside the governorate of Anbar.
Of these returnees, 6,726 individuals (1,121 families) returned between the 11th and 16th of this month (April). IOM will continue to closely monitor the numbers and overall situation of IDPs and returnees in Ramadi and Anbar.
From the 26th ofMarch to the 18th of April this year there have been 2,538 individuals (489 families) displaced from villages south west of Makhmour in Ninewa governorate. This is the first monitored displacement as military operations to liberate Mosul and surrounding villages have been launched.
A total of 553,104 individuals are reported to have returned to their location of origin across Iraq. Salah al-Din governorate has experienced the highest number of returns, with 262,074 individuals. Ninewa and Diyala also reported a high number of returnees (respectively 131,766 and 118,404), mainly due to improved security conditions.
IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss said: “IOM is very concerned about ongoing and recent displacement across Iraq. With more than 3.4 million Iraqis now displaced, humanitarian resources are stretched.
Additional resources are needed to assist displaced Iraqis, many of whom were forced to leave their homes at a moment’s notice and require comprehensive support. IOM will continue to cooperate with the UN Humanitarian Country Team, humanitarian partners, government authorities and our donors, to assist displaced populations throughout the country.”
Education lacks for young children especially for girls in Pakistan, the country has the second highest number of children not having the opportunity for an education. On July twelfth, 1997, Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, a city in Swat Valley Pakistan. As young girl she would make her way into classes and pretend as if she was the teacher.
Her father an activist for education in Pakistan and battling against the Taliban’s decision for education against girls. Both Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai shared a passion for education and a love for learning. 
Something always changes at one point, in Swat Valley that change ended up being the Taliban in 2007. The Taliban became the principal sociopolitical force in all of northwest Pakistan. Girls lost their opportunity for an education, residents lost their modern culture, and everyone was under control.
By 2008 an estimate of five hundred schools have been destroyed by the Taliban.
Malala and her father questioned the Taliban.Malala carried a strong passion for education and she knew she had a right to learn and a right to go to school.
“”I am afraid” is the title of her first BBC diary entry. She blogged anonymously on the Urdu language site of BBC. Her blog consisted of stories of her life, her fears, and her dream to go to school. Malala and her friends talked about the anxiety they felt from ‘’students dropping away from class for fear of being targeted by militants’’.
“It was on the fifth of May, in 2009 when Malala fled her home for the first time in fear of the Taliban and her safety. Remaining passionate in the cause of education for all, upon her return she continued her campaign for equality of free education for girls. It may have taken over three years, ultimately their voices were heard and accepted all over Pakistan – except for the Taliban. In reward for her hard work of advocacy for education she won Pakistan’s “National Youth Peace Prize.” 
Malala was attacked and shot in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC. She suffered a shot in the head, two of her school friends ended up injured as well.
She underwent several surgeries, luckily she did not suffer from any permanent brain damage. She spent many weeks in recovery, and in March 2013, Malala attended school in Birmingham. The Taliban’s defense as to why they assaulted her was ‘’promoting secular education.’’ 
The youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize for their amazing work and activism, Malala mentioned that she was “humbled and proud to be the first Pashtun and the first Pakistani to win the prize.”
Malala’s campaign for education is worldwide, ‘’A fund set up in her name helps children in education around the world’’ 
Keemia is a fourteen-year-old student, and she has successfully completed her internship with honours at the Alistair Reign News Blog. Keemia is an inspiring young lady, she enjoys debating, music and reading; she is multilingual in English, French and Farsi. Keemia’s aspirations include, “vocalizing the problems Muslims face day to day, and talk about the racism in this world. My legacy will be to be a platform for young women whether they be Iranian, Muslim or Middle Eastern girls and I dream to help them rise above obstacles in this world. I want to use my writing to inspire, to motivate and to educate through my writing.” As a youth reporter she will be covering humanitarian news, events and other topics surrounding child rights and youth empowerment.
Today, ISIS controls over a third of Iraq. The Kurdish and their underdog army defend their home against the world’s most feared and ruthless threat. Journalist Neil Shea travels to the heart of Kurdistan to meet the men and women fighting the DAESH.
Part One: Inside The Kurdish Ground War On ISIS.
Part Two: The Yazidi women who call themselves the ‘Force of the Sun Ladies‘ have taken up arms in the quest for revenge. but also to preserve the future of their race.