Terrorism

ANF elements ban children's festival in Idlib province

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Syrian children at one of the Atme camps for displaced people enjoy fun activities during a past event organised by one the charities at the camp. Al-Nusra Front elements this week stormed al-Julan camp to ban a children's festival held for Eid al-Fitr. [Photo courtesy of Sumer Agha]

Armed gunmen stormed a camp for displaced Syrians in Idlib province on Thursday (June 29th) during festivities held by a children's relief organisation to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, activists told Diyaruna.

Elements of al-Nusra Front (ANF), now known as Fatah al-Sham Front and part of the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, fired gunshots in the air at al-Julan camp and beat children and event organisers who stood in their way, said media activist Sumer Agha, from the Salamiyah local co-ordination committee.

The camp, one of the Atme camps for displaced Syrians, is located near Qah, a village in the northern countryside of Idlib province.

"The terrorists fired gunshots in the air to terrorise children who were attending a festival organised by a children's relief organisation," Agha told Diyaruna.

They introduced themselves as "members of the committee for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice", he said, citing eyewitnesses and media and relief activists from the camp.

The extremists told everyone present that "the festival must stop because the programme included songs and dances for children", he added.

'Moments of horror'

"The residents of the camp and their children lived through moments of horror after the extremists beat all those who stood in their way," Agha said, noting that many children, parents and event organisers sustained bruises.

The extremists also destroyed computers, sound systems and other equipment that were being used during the festival.

"The organisers had paid careful attention to all aspects [of the festival] to avoid harassments, especially as other events had been banned at the camp under the pretext that they were against sharia," he said.

Children attended the festival alone while families remained at a square opposite them, Agha said.

Additionally, "the songs that were played were children's songs only, not regular songs", he said.

ANF elements checked all cell phones and took a number of memory cards so pictures and videos of the attack do not get leaked.

"They also threatened to punish families who rushed to the rescue of their children if any picture or video of the incident was leaked," he said.

Extremists prevent Eid joy

Idlib-based media activist Mahmoud Hajj Kamel confirmed the incident at the camp.

"Tahrir al-Sham elements in general, and ANF elements in particular, are preventing any aspects of joy and celebration in the area which includes several displacement camps that host tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs)," he told Diyaruna.

"They do that under the pretext of implementing sharia," Hajj Kamel said.

But the real reason is that most of the residents reject the practices of these groups and refuse to obey their orders, he added.

"These terrorist groups have failed to recruit young men and children, and therefore, try to take revenge whenever there is a chance," he said.

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