There are at least 48 children from Russia living in Mosul today. They were brought to Iraq by their parents, most of whom have since been killed. Many of these children know very little about their origins. Some of them speak Russian, and others know only Chechen. In order to return these people to Russia, it first needs to be confirmed that they’re Russian citizens.
According to the Russian state television network RT, Chechen-born Jordanian politician Samikh Beno is doing what he can to get these children home. He says he’s been moving them from Iraq to Jordan, where they give DNA samples in lieu of formal identification. “We’re doing this so nobody comes and tells us without any evidence that one of these kids is theirs,” Beno says.
RT says Beno started looking for these lost children after Iraqi parliament member Nadiya Dzhuburi shared a photo on WhatsApp showing an injured young girl (though it’s unclear when exactly Dzhuburi circulated this image). According to the online portal Caucasian Knot, Chechen Internet users started spreading a similar photograph on July 20, 2017. The image features a caption claiming that the girl’s parents have been killed and that she only speaks Chechen. Samikh Beno says he’s learned the girl’s name, Khadizha Khuseinova, and he’s also found the girl’s grandmother in Russia. Khadizha is currently recuperating in a Baghdad hospital.
Last month, WhatsApp users also spread a video of a young boy whose father has reportedly been taken captive. The boy’s mother, a Chechen resident named Zalikha Ashakhanova, later recognized her son in the video. In 2015, her ex husband took their son to Syria, and from there the two went to Iraq. For the next two years, she heard nothing from them. On August 2, four-year-old Bilal Tagirov returned to Russia after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov intervened. When he got back to Chechnya, the boy did not recognize his own mother.
According to Kadyrov, there are Russian children in Baghdad, as well as Mosul. The Chechen leader says there are as many as 40 children from Russia in the city’s orphanages. According to Caucasian Knot, many of these children have no Russian documents because they were born in ISIS-controlled territory.