A mother has been reunited with her children in Syria after her husband kidnapped them and took them into Islamic State-held territory.
Rasha, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was separated from her two sons for five years.
She came home from her brother’s funeral to find an empty home, and discovered her husband had left with the boys to IS-held Deir Ezzor.
A month ago her sons fled the IS territory and were taken to a displacement camp.
Their father died of an infection.
Save the Children took the boys, now aged 11 and nine, into their care and began looking for their mother.
Rasha said: “While I lost them, I didn’t rest. Every day I would pray, and fast, and ask God to see them again.
“I always believed that I would see them again – for five years, I didn’t lose hope… every time I heard a child cry for his mother, my heart wept.
“But thank God, I’ve now been reunited with my sons. After they reached the camp, Save the Children cared for them and later tracked me down on Facebook.
“They checked that I really was the boys’ mother and I proved it by telling them about the scars on Yousef’s body and their birthmarks.”
Despite the years of separation and the young ages at which the boys were taken from her, Yousef and Mohammed, whose names have been changed, remembered their mother.
Yousef, 11, said: “I was so happy when they told me that they had found my mother and all I want is to go home with her and my grandfather. I can’t wait to be a family again.”
Now that they have been reunited, Rasha’s concerns have turned to how she will find money for her sons and send them to school.
Their happy reunion comes as Save the Children says more than half of Syrian children are facing family breakdown, separation and bereavement, and that more than a third of them feel unsafe “always or frequently”.
The charity surveyed 365 children from Idlib, Aleppo, al-Raqqa and al-Hassakeh, who told them they are worried about violence, insecurity, and housing, as well as being separated from their families.
Children are also worried about a lack of education, with many out of school.
Sara, 14, whose name has been changed, was injured during an airstrike and is now living in the displacement camp.
She said: “Before the war my life was very beautiful, and I was happy with my family. I am not so happy anymore.
“My life and the war are one now. Whenever I hear a plane in the sky, I still get so scared.
“I think it’s important to ask children about our lives. It’s hard to imagine the future of my country when we don’t even have a home, but I’m still optimistic.
“I would tell the world’s children not to go too far from your families and don’t play with anything dangerous.”
Save the Children says 5 million children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, and that 2.5 million are internally displaced.
But children who spoke to the charity are hopeful about the future, and want the restoration of schools and education so that other kids can play a role in the rebuilding of the nation.
Kevin Watkins, chief executive of the Save the Children, said: “Some four million children in Syria have been born since the start of Syria’s brutal conflict eight years ago, and most have known nothing but war. Their short lives have been marked by loss, displacement and violence. They need what every child needs – support, security, healthcare, and the education that will help them rebuild their lives.
“Syria’s children did not create the devastation wrought on their country – and they have already paid too high a price for war. Our surveys of Syrian children capture what can only be described as a heroic sense of optimism, hope and ambition in the face of unspeakable adversity. These children need our support – and they have a right to expect our best effort. That’s why we are calling on the UK and the wider international community gathered in Brussels this week to put Syria’s children at the heart of a recovery plan.”
This week marks the beginning of the Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region. It takes place from 12-14 March with a meeting of foreign ministers on 14 March.
(c) Sky News 2019: Syrian mother reunited with sons five years after husband kidnapped them