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Life under Islamic State (ISIS) Rule explains the Plight of Children in Mosul

Some parents say their children are so consistently re-traumatized, their behaviour is unpredictable

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Despite the fog increasing the danger of IS militants launching attacks in Iraqi areas, families stop soldiers to ask where to find humanitarian aid on Dec. 2, 2016 in Mosul, Iraq. (H.Murdock/VOA)
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Mosul, December 3, 2016: “We expected that the children would be afraid,” says Ali, a grandfather who was an herbalist before Islamic State militants took over Mosul. “But they just went on playing while mortars rained down on our neighborhood.”

About four meters away, Iraqi soldiers fire mortars over a brick wall behind which Islamic State militants had retreated a few days ago after a brutal battle. A thick fog engulfs the city and soldiers tell us the weather is an IS tool. In the fog, they say, airplanes can’t see militants so the fighters can move forward unnoticed.

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Children all over the region re-captured by the Iraqi Army flash victory signs, saying they have been freed of Islamic State militants. Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Children all over the region re-captured by the Iraqi Army flash victory signs, saying they have been freed of Islamic State militants. Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)

The children in the streets of Mosul seem unaware, racing out of their houses to wave and flash victory signs with their hands at the Iraqi army as it passes by; but, the games they play, says Ali, show just how much two-and-half-years of IS rule changed everything, for everyone.

“My grandchildren line up bullet casings all standing up,” Ali says. “The game is to knock down the whole row by throwing only one bullet casing at the rest.”

Other parents say their children are so consistently re-traumatized, their behavior is unpredictable. “They cry and are afraid all the time,” says Abu Khodaida, the father of 11 in a nearby Mosul neighborhood. “But they play indoors.”

At night, he says, his neighborhood experiences constant mortar fire, and he shows us his bombed out car before we are hurried along by the army as the sky darkens, even though it’s 2 p.m.

Two hours later in Gojali, IS fighters emerge from the fog and shoot a small boy, soldiers tell us. The Iraqi army entered this neighborhood on the outskirts of Mosul more than a month ago, but the weather has made everything different. A few minutes later, gunfire stops and soldiers urge us to drive away, fast.

Soldiers fire mortars over a wall where Islamic State militants retreated back to a few days prior to Dec. 2, 2016 in Mosul, Iraq. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Soldiers fire mortars over a wall where Islamic State militants retreated back to a few days prior to Dec. 2, 2016 in Mosul, Iraq. (H.Murdock/VOA)

War games

In the relative safety of the camps about 30 kilometers outside Mosul, other children say they like to play ‘pretend’ like any other youngsters; but, children at the Khazir Camp don’t play ‘cops and robbers.’ They play ‘Islamic State fighting the Iraqi Army.’

“Some of us are Daesh,” says Rafaad, using the pejorative term for IS, while waving an old plastic toy gun. He doesn’t know his age but he looks to be about 10 years old. “And some of us are the Iraqi army.”

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“Who wins the battle usually?” my colleague asks the growing group of excited children.

“The Iraqi army!” they shout in unison.

Little girls here in Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq say they like to pretend camp workers are giving them papers to get supplies like food and fuel on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Little girls here in Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq say they like to pretend camp workers are giving them papers to get supplies like food and fuel on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)

Albeeya, a girl who thinks she is 9 years old but isn’t sure, describes another game she plays with her girlfriends.

“Some of us pretend they work at the camp,” she says, proudly. “And they give some of us papers so we can get things.”

Slips of paper, she explains, are what displaced families bring to aid workers to prove their eligibility for food, fuel, bedding, clothes and anything else they may need to survive. Winter has descended on the camp, and families are increasingly anxious about resources as thousands of people continue to flee Mosul and the surrounding area.

Nearly 80,000 people have already fled in the past two-and-a-half months of conflict. Near where the children play, parents crowd around fenced-in areas where aid workers keep supplies. “I’ve been here since the morning,” one mother said. “The milk is in there, I’m sure of it.”

Children demonstrate a game they play in Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Children demonstrate a game they play in Khazir Camp, Kurdish Iraq on Dec. 1, 2016. (H.Murdock/VOA)

Another mother passes by, carrying a baby. Another child, a son who looks like he’s about 12, carries a sack of rice on his back. “Look, we have to sell our rice to buy milk,” she says as she hustles away.

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The group of children continues to describe their games gleefully, with some grabbing hands to demonstrate a singing game.

“If you can get any slips of paper, what would you want to get?” we ask Albeeya.

“Just everything,” she says.

“Everything, like what?” we press.

“Everything,” she repeats, smiling. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google adds support for hashtags on Maps for Android devices. Wikimedia Commons

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?