Coming back home…
A personal account on the repatriation journey by Alisher
(Name changed to protect identity)
My name is Alisher. I am 13 years old.
Growing up in Uzbekistan, I had a very loving family. I had a mother, father, sister, and a brother - family and siblings with whom I played a lot with. You see these memories of playing together are very dear to me since our lives changed. It is not the same anymore. Things started changing when we moved to Egypt to study religion, then to Syria, and then ended up in Iraq. We lost our father there and our mother did not come back.
Iraq stole our parents and in return gave us two more brothers. It was not nice in Iraq.
We would only sit at home and carry buckets of water. Bad people used to beat us there. They were hitting us with an iron stick. They would let us go out once a week to play with other children and three soccer balls in a room with grids instead of walls. They would lock us there. Some children would want to escape from there, but they were being caught and punished immediately. Every night we would make holes with an iron stick to open the door and go out. Sometimes we would run when they would open the door to bring food. We would run fast and hide in places that look like a labyrinth. Because once you get caught, you will be beaten up…
One day I woke up and mom told us that we should immediately move to Uzbekistan to live in safety. My siblings and I made it to the place from where we departed. I was very excited about a new life without violence. One year has passed since then. We have been living with our grandparents. I love living with them. They always help with homework, look after us and never punish us even if we make them mad. We sleep tight here.
We have all the opportunities to study and play again but not as before. My parents are not here anymore”.
Many children have been caught up in the conflict in Syria or Iraq. They cannot be held accountable for the decisions of their parents or other caregivers and have a right to the protection of their human rights.
Cognizant that every child must have access to basic services, such as food, clean water, shelter, education, medical care, mental health, and psychosocial support, including family tracing and reunification, the Government of Uzbekistan has made a firm commitment to repatriate children such as Alisher and his four siblings from Iraq.
The children have been reunified with their grandparents and benefited from comprehensive reintegration assistance of UNICEF and the NGO “Barqaror Hayot”.
Children received medical care, psychosocial support, and access to education including tutoring and extra classes to help the children catch up with missed years of schooling. Furthermore, the grandparents are getting monthly allowances for five children as their official guardians.
These children and their grandparents were supported within the EU-funded project ‘EU-UN Support to the States in Central Asia for their citizens returned from conflict zones, primarily Syria and Iraq’.