Tuesday, 09 October 2012, 04:28 GMT
Foster parenting in Iraqi Kurdistan

Jamila Qadir holding her unbirth child at the courtyard of her house./GLOBE PHOTO/Goran Sabah

The Kurdish Globe
By Goran Sabah Ghafour

Thrown children are up for grabs

Dressed in black clad and bursting with mixed feeling of happiness and excitement, the new mother tightly carried a baby girl wrapped in a white blanket. The baby girl was pink and bright with a big head and scrawny little arms and legs jerking back and forth. Juggling her with one hand and trying to give her a bottle with the other, together they made a perfect picture of a real mother and daughter.

Jamila Qadir didn't have a good vehicle to express happiness as it was the first time she had witnessed a child in her marvelous home. She had been waiting to have a child for more than 15 years. But now she is a foster parent in Kurdistan where sterilization is at rife. In the space of a minute, she kissed the baby, who had a mosquito bite on her cheek, more than 20 times.

All her anger, waiting and distress melted away, she said if she didn't have the child she would have been dead by now. "I still thank God that we now have this little cute baby."

"I feel that I've carried her for the real 9 months and days."

There are hundreds of Qadirs in Kurdistan who have applied to be foster parents after being tired from waiting and losing hope to have a child. The foster parents' complaint calls are very disappointing as officials don't take them seriously into account.

As Qadir said she had to wait three years to get a child and that's because of the ignorance of the officials who manage foster parenting in Kurdistan. Other foster parents have waited longer.

At least 67 removed children from birth parents got placements for foster parents since 2004, Erbil Juvenile Court figures showed. Sixty more foster parents have applied and showed willingness to the court to take removed children.

Foster parents have doubts for the way the court distributes the removed children and see inequality in the process which is new in the Kurdish society.

Nazanin Ahmed,42, has no children and have been married for 20 years. She is one of the applicants who criticized the court saying "we have demanded a child for a period of 8 years but the court has not responded to us yet".

In Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan Region, some parents throw away their children or neglect or abuse them. People like Qadir and Ahmed are perfectly happy to have one of them and raise them as their own. As Ahmed said "it's much better than having no children. It's God's blessing and the feelings are unspeakable."

More than a million children are being thrown away yearly by their birth parents in the world, mostly from Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East, according to an American organization.

No one knows whether the children were born from prostitutes or were thrown by their birth parents as they have no identity, head of the research team in the court Samir Anwar said.

Children are usually thrown by birth parents in front of mosques, homes or outside the city, according to Anwar. Having that in mind, religious men and preachers consider the act a big sin. Sheikh Ahmed Berzinji, an Imam in Erbil, said that the birth parents are involved in a big sin when they throw away their children and the foster parents show good deeds by raising and feeding them. "God bless them."

Foster parents should register their names first and wait until their turn comes up to take a child, said Anwar who admitted all the poor management by their side and referred it to one reason: lack of professional staff.

The court eyes the foster parent for 6 months to make sure they are ok and then gives them a child, Anwar noted, and added "there were parents who were not good and we noticed that they hurt the children and abuse them."

As the Kurdish Globe investigated deeper, it appeared that the foster parents should have a house and good incomes to be able take care of the child. And Anwar said even if they've got houses and good income we would take back the child if they didn't seem like they would make decent parents.

The Erbil maternity hospital has many babies to give as the birth parents throw them away or the mother has the baby from another man who is not her husband. And if that fact is revealed, the mother will probably be killed by her family and that's a big issue called honor killing found in Kurdistan. Berzinji said Islam hasn't allowed honor killing, perhaps it's the culture and men's "rotten mentality against women."

The hospital and the court are in contact for the removed and thrown away children since 2005, deputy manager of the hospital Khunaw Hassan said who asserted the fact that the foster parents wait for a long time till their turn comes up.

Sami Muhammad has no children since he married 7 years ago and has been waiting since 2007 to get a child from the court. He said no doctor left in the country to see so that they can handle the sterilization by medicine but came out without success. Then they learned about foster parenting and gave up hope with doctors and resorted to that and registered for a child.

There is another source for foster parents to get children which are those children who have lost their parents since 2003 during the war or post war explosions and other reasons related to the war. Their age ranges from 7 to 15 year old, according to the court.

Director of the maternity and death department Bafrin Karim said they register the children on the name of the foster parents after the court decides to give them children.

Qadir is happy as she has a child now by her name, but Ahmed and Mohammed are still waiting to get one. Ahmed, who was really down and felt terrible, stated that she never gives up hope and will wait for more years to come until she gets one because she deserves it. However, Mohammed thought differently saying she will wait for one more year, if she doesn't get one she will go to Jordan to see doctors again for treatment.

There are hundreds of parents in Kurdistan which try fetal surgery to have a child. Others register to be foster parents and many more hundreds just gave up home and wait for God's blessing.

Qadir, a foster parent now, seemed to be a mother by birth for the cute baby girl. She was so happy that she couldn't utter her sentences completely. During the interview, she cried continuously and every now and then thanked God. She prayed for all other mothers saying "May God bless them all and give them a child one day!"