When Turkish fighters joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, many brought their families with them. With the militants driven out of Iraqi cities, authorities are now struggling to determine what to do with the hundreds of wives and orphans they left behind, writes the BBC’s Selin Girit.
“All I know is that they’re in an orphanage in Baghdad,” says Ummugulsum, speaking of her two nieces.
Every time she shows a picture, taken at a time when they used to pose happily, she caresses it like a sacred artefact.
The girls, aged 12 and nine, are now orphans.
Their parents left Turkey to join the ranks of the Islamic State group in Syria. So did their grandfather, grandmother and uncle.
Their father was killed in Raqqa. Their mother lost her life in a bombing that they both survived in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar. Only their grandmother remains alive, but there is very little she can do as she is in a prison in Iraq.
Having nowhere to go, or no immediate family member to take care of them, the girls were taken to an orphanage in Baghdad, where they now wait to be sent home.
Their aunt learned of their whereabouts only months later.
“When I go to the market and I see dresses for girls, I feel pain,” Ummugulsum says.
“I still keep the clothes they left behind when they went to Syria. I keep their pictures. But I can’t look at them. I just take a glance when I miss them terribly. Then I put them aside and I cry.”
In their orphanage in Baghdad,…