Jihadists from the region going to fight with ISIL are taking children with them, creating fear and condemnation at home.
By Linda Karadaku for the Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 29/08/14
Pranvara Abazi is hoping that her 8-year-old son returns home safely from Syria. The boy was taken by his father to join the terrorist group ISIL. [YouTube.com]
As governments in southeast Europe try to convince their citizens not to journey to Iraq and Syria to fight with the extremists known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Kosovo woman is hoping to secure the safety of her 8-year-old son.
Pranvera Abazi said that her son, Erjon, is in Syria with his father and is believed to be in one of the cells operated by ISIL, which is terrorising portions of Syria and Iraq while attempting to form a caliphate to practice their believers' violent form of religion.
"Every day, when I wake up, I say, he'll come tonight, this evening, maybe he'll come now, don't fall asleep because I can't hear him coming. All the time I think how I am waiting for him, how I am going to pick him up at the airport," Pranvera told Kosovo TV channel KTV.
Abazi said that Erjon was taken in July to Syria by his father, Arben Abazi. She said the boy's father told her that they were going to Rugova, a mountainous region in Kosovo, but she recently saw photos of her son surrounded by jihadists holding the ISIL flag.
"Now that September is coming, all children go to school, and he is…," she said, her words trailing away.
She has talked to her son in Syria only once and he told her he is far away. Other people around were shouting that he is with "Muslim brothers" there.
"Please return Joni back to me, he is only 8 years old, he is without his mother, he is there without my permission," Abazi said.
Kosovo police spokesman Baki Kelani told SETimes that authorities are trying to secure the boy's release and are also working with officials in Turkey.
Of the hundreds of reports of Balkan citizens going to Syria and Iraq, the Abazi family's situation is the most painful, said Kosovo MP Amal Lama of the Democratic League of Kosovo.
"This is very serious. We are dealing here with multiple crimes, abduction of the minor, depriving him of school, sending him to war, which are all against international conventions for the rights of children," Lama told SETimes.
Erjon is not believed to be the only Kosovo child in Syria; others are believed to have gone there with their families and fathers to fight with the jihadists. Kelani could not give any information on how many Kosovo children are already in those war zones.
Kosovo political commentator Ymer Mushkolaj said it is very important to have a reaction in society to prevent such a phenomena. It is of paramount importance to have the families and relatives of those who want to take their children to Syria report the cases to the authorities, so that they can be prevented, Mushkolaj told SETimes.
"Taking children in Syria and Iraq is terrible. Those who act like that ruin the family and to the children, if they escape the war, cause trauma for the entire life," Mushkolaj said.
Albania is suffering the same phenomena. Albanian Islamic extremists who are fighting in Syria on the side of ISIL have taken families with them, including young children.
Albanian television Top Channel reported in March this year that out of 86 Albanian citizens who went to Syria to fight with the ISIL, 13 of them had wives and children with them. The youngest is a 6-month-old baby from the village of Gurras in Pogradec.
Albanian prosecutors have said they believe there are 31 Albanian children in Syria and some of them remain there only with their mothers, because their fathers were killed.
Officials of the Kosovo Islamic Community have condemned the case saying that taking children to Syria is a sin. Resul Rexhepi, general secretary for Kosovo Islamic Community, told the media that taking children to Syria and Iraq is extremely concerning and entirely unacceptable.
"I don't know what to call this craziness," Rexhepi said, appealing for the return of those children home.
How can governments and Islamic authorities best protect children from ISIL? Add your thoughts in the comment area.