Archive for December 19, 2014

December 17, 2014

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s powerful Shiite rebels shut down a strategic Red Sea port on Wednesday, and stormed the offices of the country’s main state newspaper, officials said.

The rebels, known as Houthis, closed Hodeida port, the second largest in Yemen, and prevented its director from entering his office, a port official said. The port was seized by Houthis in October, a month after they swept through the capital, Sanaa. This month, they sacked the governor of Hodeida and replaced him with an ally.

The militiamen, empowered by supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have plunged Yemen into turmoil. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been severely weakened, despite a United Nations-brokered deal that was supposed to bring stability by boosting the Houthis’ representation in the government.

A day before Hodeida was shuttered, the Information Ministry said that Houthi’s overran the offices of the newspaper al-Thawra. The ministry called the action a “blatant assault” and a “grave violation of the freedom of the press.”

Officials at the paper say that armed men raided the building and forced out Editor-in-Chief Faisal Makram, accusing him of corruption. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their own safety.

The latest escalation comes days after Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi delivered a strongly worded speech that harshly criticized President Hadi. Al-Houthi on Monday accused Hadi of harboring al-Qaida and leaving the country infested with corruption.

Opponents of the Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, accuse them of being a proxy for Shiite powerhouse Iran. On Wednesday, Hadi while receiving the credentials of the new Iranian ambassador in Yemen, was quoted as saying, “relations with Yemen should be through official channels … not on the level of parties, groups or militias” in a clear reference to the Houthis.

In addition to the Houthis, Yemen is also facing a strong al-Qaida presence and a robust separatist movement in the south.


SANAA – At least 15 people, including five women, have been killed in shelling by a Yemeni Shiite militia targeting a mainly Sunni district, local officials and tribal sources said Friday.

Yemen has been rocked by growing instability since the Shiite fighters, known as Huthis, seized control of the capital Sanaa in September.

The Huthis have expanded their presence throughout the strife-torn nation in the face of fierce resistance from local Sunni tribes backed by Al-Qaeda’s powerful Yemeni branch.

Heavy artillery shelling by the Huthis targeting a northern district of the central town of Rada killed five women late Thursday and displaced thousands, witness Jaber al-Zuba said.

Government officials in Rada and tribal sources confirmed that five women were among 15 members of local tribes killed by the shelling, and that at least 25 people were wounded.

The sources said dozens of Huthis were also killed in fighting around Rada.

Tribesmen in Rada said they destroyed two tanks and three armored vehicles used by Shiite militias, also accused the army of backing them with heavy weaponry.

“The Huthis are using the army’s equipment in the battle,” one tribal source said.

The rise of the Huthis has challenged the authority of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, an ally of the United States, and violence has continued despite UN-backed efforts to find a political solution.

Instability in Yemen, which lies next to key shipping routes from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, stems from the 2012 overthrow of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been accused of backing the rebels.

Saleh is a member of the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which the Huthis belong.

A new cabinet, including members considered close to the Huthis, was sworn in Sunday in a bid to resolve Yemen’s political crisis, despite calls for a boycott from both Saleh and the Shiite militia.

But authorities have yet to tackle the fighters in Sanaa or to impose order in other parts of the country where they have also imposed themselves.

Source: Middle East Online.


November 08, 2014

ADEN, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s state-run TV on Friday announced the lineup of the country’s new Cabinet following a U.N.-brokered deal with Shiite rebels who had overrun the capital of Sanaa and plunged the country into another crisis.

The Houthi rebels captured Sanaa in September, allegedly with the tacit support of the country’s former president and demanded that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi appoint a new government, complaining the previous one was too close to their rival conservative Sunni Islamist party.

After weeks of violence and political wrangling, during which a U.N.-brokered deal was reached, Khaled Bahah was nominated for prime minister and tasked with forming a new government. But a dispute over who would form the Cabinet continued until last Saturday, when all Yemeni parties and political groups agreed on an apolitical technocrat Cabinet.

The compromise was an important step in efforts to regain stability in the volatile and deeply impoverished country. The TV said late Friday that the new Cabinet has 37 members, including Bahah, the prime minister and 29 other newcomers, while seven ministers were left over from the previous government.

The new faces included Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi, a top army commander in southern Yemen with a record of combating al-Qaida, as well as Foreign Minister Abdullah al-Saaidi, a veteran diplomat, and Information Minister Nadia al-Saqqaf, the country’s first female information minister.

The announcement came shortly after thousands of Houthis and of supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh rallied in Sanaa Friday, denouncing the United States over its push for sanctions against Saleh and rebel leaders.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Saleh and two leaders of the Houthi rebels for threatening the peace, security and stability of the country. The council ordered a freeze of all assets and a global travel ban on Saleh, the rebel group’s military commander, Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, and the Houthi’s second-in-command, Abdullah Yahya al Hakim.

Saleh stepped down in 2011 as part of a U.S.-backed, Gulf-brokered deal after months of protests against his rule. But Hadi’s backers accuse Saleh of undermining his successor. Many believe Saleh, who remains a powerful political player, helped Houthi rebels in the past months as they swept into Sanaa.

The protesters in Sanaa — in much smaller numbers than usual on a Friday — carried posters urging the U.S. ambassador to get out of the country. Saleh’s party this week accused the American ambassador of telling the former president to leave Yemen by Friday or face sanctions. Washington vehemently denied making any such demand, but the party’s claim has stoked anger of alleged U.S. “interference.”

Even some in the Sunni Islamist Islah party — a sharp opponent of the Houthis and Saleh — joined in the anger. In parliament Thursday, a leading Islah lawmaker, Mansour al-Zindani, demanded that both the American ambassador and the U.N. envoy to Yemen leave the country. The Islah party later issued an apology for his comments.

The Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, have been fighting their way out of their stronghold in the north since last year and took control of Sanaa in September, largely by defeating forces loyal to the Islah party. In the past month they made further gains toward central Yemen, at times fighting al-Qaida’s branch in the country.

In a new audio clip posted online Friday, the head of Yemen’s al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wahishi, sought to rally Sunnis to his group, accusing the United States of aligning itself with the Houthis and with Shiite Iran to “draw a new map to the Muslim world, to divide what is already divided.”

Al-Wahishi said the alliance is clear in Yemen, where “Americans are in the air while Houthis are on the ground,” a reference to U.S. drone strikes and Houthis’ battles against al-Qaida. The Houthis’ opponents accuse them of being a proxy for Iran, a claim the group and Tehran deny.

In southern Yemen, special forces killed an al-Qaida operative, Turki al-Asseri, also known as by the nom de guerre Marawan al-Makni, in the city of Lahj, an al-Qaida stronghold, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Earlier this week, drone strikes in the central city of Radda killed a senior al-Qaida figure, Shawki Ali Ahmed al-Badani, designated by the U.S. as a global terrorist. The United States has been waging a campaign of drone strikes for years against the group, which carried out a string of attempted attacks on American soil.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this story.

October 20, 2014

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suicide car bomb on Monday targeted a house used by Shiite Houthi rebels in a town south of Sanaa, killing at least 10 and injuring 15, security officials said, in an attack that bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida.

The officials said the bombing in the Radaa area in Baydah province hit the house of Abdullah Idris, a top local official with the party of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. All victims were members of the Houthi movement, whose fighters overran the capital of Sanaa last month. The Houthis have since made significant military advances widely suspected to have been made with the help of Saleh’s loyalists among tribes and in the military.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which took place just hours after the officials reported that fighting resumed between the Houthis and al-Qaida fighters in Radaa. The battles left 13 of the rebels and 15 militants dead, according to tribal officials in the area.

Also on Monday, the officials said al-Qaida militants captured the town of al-Adeen, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of from Sanaa in Ibb province. They did not give details on the capture of the town, where gunmen from al-Qaida last week stormed the local security headquarters and held it for hours before fleeing to the mountains.

The Houthis, widely suspected of links to mostly Shiite Iran, have been trying to take full control of Ibb since last week. The fighting and the bombing in Radaa signal a widening battle between the Shiite rebels and the Sunni militants of al-Qaida in a burgeoning conflict that threatens to evolve into a sectarian split similar to that in Syria and Iraq.

Al-Qaida last month appealed to Yemen’s Sunni majority to rise up against the Houthis, who in turn have sought to portray themselves as fighting against terrorism while seeking to create a united Yemen. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing earlier this month that killed 51 people, mostly Houthis, in Sanaa as they headed to an anti-government rally.

The Houthi-al-Qaida conflict is playing out against a backdrop of another layer of Yemen’s woes: A growing secessionist movement in the once-independent south of the country. Yemen has for years endured attacks by al-Qaida on its army, security forces and state facilities while it struggled with crushing poverty that has bred resentment — and outright rebellion. More recently, It has been grappling with a revolt by the Houthis who have in the past weeks overrun Sanaa and two northern provinces. Last week, they made another stunning sweep, taking control of the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and the province of Damar south of the capital.

In Sanaa, the governor of Sanaa, Abdul-Ghani Jameel, resigned on Monday, days after the Houthis, who captured the capital last month, accused him of corruption and chased him out of his office.

September 22, 2014

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — In a stunning sweep of the Yemeni capital, the country’s Shiite rebels seized homes, offices and military bases of their Sunni foes on Monday, forcing many into hiding and triggering an exodus of civilians from the city after a week of fighting that left 340 people dead.

It was the latest development in the Hawthi blitz, which has plunged volatile Yemen into more turmoil, pitting the Shiite rebels against the Sunni-dominated military and their Islamist tribal allies. The heavily armed Hawthi fighters on Monday seized tanks and armored vehicles from military headquarters they had overrun, and raided the home of long-time archenemy Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the army’s elite 1st Armored Division and a veteran of a series of wars against the Shiite rebels, as well as residences of top Sunni Islamist militiamen or the fundamentalist Islah party.

Al-Ahmar himself fled and was forced into hiding, along with his followers, as the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, succeeded in mediating a deal on Sunday between the Shiite Hawthis and their rivals and the fighting died down. But the Hawthis made no concessions.

After flooding into Sanaa, the Hawthis also took strategic installations and key state buildings, though they claimed later to have handed them back to the army’s military police. Thousands of Hawthi fighters — including many youths — were the only visible force Monday on the streets of the capital. They drove army tanks and armored vehicles they looted from al-Ahmar’s forces out of the city, heading north, likely to the Hawthis’ heartland in the city of Saada.

The group’s spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said the rebels will hunt down those who committed violence against them, indicating the possibility of wider revenge attacks against opponents. Observers say the Hawthis’ battlefield success reflects a major change in Yemen’s political landscape, with traditional sources of power — Sunni Islamists, allied army generals and tribal chiefs — losing their grip as the central government gave in to the Shiite rebels to avert a full-blown civil war.

Mansour Hayel, a Yemeni political analyst, compared the Hawthi sweep to the rampage in Iraq and Syria by Sunni militants from the Islamic State group. “The situation is very disturbing,” Hayel said. “The state withdrew its control over institutions and the Hawthis and their affiliates replaced it. They are all over the city.”

The Hawthis signed the U.N.-brokered deal on Sunday, an agreement that gave them unprecedented influence in the presidency and over the Cabinet. It calls for an immediate cease-fire and the formation of a technocratic government within a month after consultations with all political parties.

According to the deal, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is to appoint key advisers — from both the ranks of the Hawthis and the pro-separatist factions in the south. However, the Hawthis abstained from signing an appendix to the deal that stipulates that they abide by the cease-fire, withdraw from Sanaa and other northern cities, and surrender their weapons to the government.

Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest nations, is facing multiple challenges. An al-Qaida branch in the south poses a constant threat as it tries to impose control over cities and towns. Washington considers the Yemeni branch to be the world’s most dangerous arm of al-Qaida and has helped support Yemeni government offensives against it with drone strikes.

The Hawthis waged a six-year insurgency that officially ended in 2010. The following year, an Arab Spring-inspired uprising forced then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012 as part of a U.S.-backed deal giving him immunity from prosecution.

After Saleh’s ouster, a power-sharing deal brokered by Yemen’s neighboring Gulf Arab states and Western allies gave the Islah party along with the rest of the opposition half of the Cabinet and parliament seats. The other half went to Saleh’s party.

The Hawthis opposed the deal, which sidelined them completely and which likely contributed to their further disenchantment with the government in Sanaa. Before going into hiding, al-Ahmar and Saleh’s successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, met briefly at the president’s office on Sunday, according to an official at the presidency.

They argued, and the general failed to convince the president to send warplanes against the Hawthis, the official said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the content of the closed-door meeting. “Hadi choose the best of the worst options … to avoid a civil war.”

The Yemeni army is also fractured, something that was apparent when the Hawthis swept into Sanaa and several state institutions were taken over without a fight as commanders abandoned their posts, said military officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity to talk to the media.

Hawthis also took over the offices of the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chapter in Yemen, which on Sunday also signed the U.N.-brokered deal. The rebels also stormed the house of Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman, an Islah sympathizer. She wrote on her Facebook page on Monday that the Hawthis broke her doors, searched it and slept in her children’s room.

The Islah party called on its members to “stay home” and lay low. “Don’t get dragged to calls of violence and revenge. You are a political party and you are not responsible for protecting state institutions,” said top Islah official Zaid al-Shami, according to a statement posted on the party’s website.

Hadi, deeply weakened by the latest crisis, told a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the U.N. deal was “a big achievement for the sake of safeguarding Yemen from disasters, war, and fragmentation.” But many think the crisis is far from over.

“In a country awash with weapons, we will enter a war where everyone is against everyone,” said Abdel-Bari Taher, a veteran Yemeni journalist and author. Hayel, the analyst, said there are increasing fears Yemen will be torn apart with sectarianism, intertwined with tribalism, which will “blow up the whole country.”

Thousands of Sanaa residents have already fled the city, while those who stayed hunkered down in their homes, fearful of new clashes and looting. Long lines of cars loaded with suitcases and food were seen leaving the capital for the countryside Monday.

Schools, banks and government offices were all closed while Sanaa’s northern and western districts, the scenes of fierce battles, were badly damaged by the past week’s relentless shelling. Many buildings were pockmarked by gunfire and bodies of fighters were left rotting on the streets.

Resident Ahmed al-Hamdani said he saw Red Crescent staff carrying away bodies from the street he lives on. Some of the bodies were torn apart or had no limbs, he said. Yemeni medical officials said 200 more bodies were retrieved from Sanaa streets on Monday, bringing the death toll to 340 in the week-long battles.

Michael reported from Cairo.


SANAA – Yemeni Shiite rebels seized control Tuesday of the northern city of Amran, near the capital Saana, after three days of fierce fighting estimated to have uprooted some 10,000 families.

“Amran is now under the control of the Huthi” rebels, who are also known as Ansarullah, said the official, whose remarks were confirmed by military sources and witnesses.

The Huthis seized all of Amran, including police stations and the headquarters of the 310th Army Brigade, which is based in the city, said the sources.

Their fighters were in control of entries and exits to Amran in the evening, while others patrolled the city itself, one of the sources added.

Amran, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Sanaa, is home to an estimated 120,000 people.

It has been the scene of fighting between troops and Huthi rebels, as well as tribes on both sides since February as the rebels advanced from their mountain strongholds towards the capital.

The Red Crescent said earlier Tuesday that some 10,000 families have fled Amran in three days to escape the intense battle between the army and Shiite rebels.

Launching a “call for help,” the organization said 5,000 more families were trapped by the fighting there.

“The bodies of 60 people killed, mostly civilians and soldiers, have been brought to the hospital since Saturday,” said a medic at Amran’s main hospital.

“Around 180 wounded, many of them civilians were also admitted,” the source said, which could not immediately compile a full toll.

– ‘Heavy loss of life’ –

Army reinforcements sent to Amran on Sunday were also locked in fierce clashes with rebels in Dharawan, 15 kilometers from Sanaa, and in and around the city itself, military sources said.

Early on Tuesday, fighter jets bombed Amran’s Warak neighborhood, hours after it was seized by rebels.

Huthis have been battling the government for years from their Saada heartland, complaining of marginalization under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after a year-long uprising.

Clashes erupted anew last month in the north, ending an 11-day truce agreed after mediation backed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar.

In a statement published on the official Saba news agency Tuesday, Benomar said he “is deeply concerned about the continuing violence in Amran and other areas of the north”.

“He profoundly regrets the heavy loss of life over the past days,” said the statement.

He “stresses the need for all parties to work toward a definitive cessation of violence through a political process” and “reiterates the need to develop a peace plan for the north,” it added.

Benomar also urged “all sides to facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access to evacuate the wounded and to ensure the delivery of assistance to all populations in need.”

The rebels say a federalization plan agreed in February after national talks as part of a political transition would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions.

They seized areas of Amran province in fighting with tribes in February that killed more than 150 people.

Source: Middle East Online.


By Ali Oweida

Monday, April 14, 2014

SANAA – Thousands of Yemenis staged fresh rallies on Sunday in the capital Sanaa, demanding the formation of a new government.

Demonstrators marched to the Finance Ministry headquarters, shouting slogans accusing the government of failing to provide security amid continuing attacks on security officials, according an Anadolu Agency reporter.

They also called on the government to guarantee the provisions of basic goods and services, especially petroleum and diesel fuel.

“The protest aims at bringing down the government and forming a cabinet of national unity,” Loai al-Shami, a spokesman for the February 11 movement, which organized Sunday’s demonstration, told AA.

In a statement, the protest organizers urged donor countries to suspend aid to the incumbent government, accusing the latter of corruption.

The February 11 movement is an umbrella of several opposition forces, including the Shiite Houthi group.

Yemen has witnessed recurrent anti-government demonstrations since the February anniversary of the popular uprising that unseated president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency

Source: Turkish Press.


Aden (AFP)

April 02, 2014

Al-Qaeda attacked a Yemeni army headquarters in a heavily patrolled district of Aden on Wednesday, sparking a gun battle that killed 20 people, most of them militants, officials said.

The building targeted is located in the supposedly tightly secured coastal district of Tawahi that hosts intelligence and political police headquarters, a naval base and a presidential residence.

“We have regained control of the situation,” an army official told AFP, adding that the fighting went on for several hours.

Ten of the assailants were killed, along with a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives-laden car at an entrance to the base, the official said.

Six soldiers were killed and 14 wounded, while three civilians including a seven-year-old child were also among those who died, the official added.

The militants launched the attack on the northern side of the army headquarters, with some of them climbing a wall into the building as a car was blown up at a western entrance, the sources said.

Reinforcements from the 31st Armored Brigade stationed in Aden were dispatched to support the troops in Tawahi, a military official said.

No information was immediately available on the overall number of attackers.

– ‘Cowardly attack’ –

The official Saba news agency quoted a security official as saying the incident was “a suicide terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda”.

“The guards at the HQ have foiled this cowardly attack” and government forces were “hunting down the attackers who fled after the assault,” the official told Saba.

The brazen attack on such a highly protected area came despite the authorities having stepped up measures in recent weeks to contain a deadly wave of violence rocking the Arabian Peninsula country for years.

On March 8, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi replaced interior minister Abdelqader Qahtan for failing to improve the “below-par” performance of the security forces.

Qahtan’s successor, Abdo Tareb, ordered the dismissal of three security chiefs for failing to prevent a March 24 attack attributed to Al-Qaeda on an army checkpoint in the southeastern Hadramawt province, in which 20 soldiers were killed.

Wednesday’s assault is similar to one carried out by gunmen from Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia on an army headquarters in Hadramawt in September, in which they took hostages and 12 people died.

The army recaptured the facility and freed the hostages after nearly four days of fighting.

In December, Al-Qaeda militants launched a daylight assault on the defense ministry, killing 56 people.

The group has taken advantage of the weakening of the central government since 2011, as a result of a popular uprising that toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in power.

Washington regards Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the global jihadist network’s most dangerous affiliate and has stepped up drone strikes against the group in recent months.

Source: Space War.


December 19, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Nearly 30,000 Syrian children born as refugees in Lebanon are in a legal limbo, not registered with any government, exposing them to the risk of a life of statelessness deprived of basic rights.

It is a problem that is replicated, to varying degrees, in nations across the Middle East where more than 3.3 million Syrians have found safe haven from the intractable civil war in their homeland. The life of a stateless person is a life without a nationality, without citizenship, without the basic documents that establish an individual’s identity and give him the rights accorded everyone else. Without a birth certificate, identity papers or other documents, even basic things like getting married, going to school or finding a job can be next to impossible.

“If you can’t prove your nationality, it means you can’t get legal documentation, can’t cross borders legally, can’t enjoy any other basic rights that citizens of a country are entitled too,” said Isabella Castrogiovanni, a senior child protection specialist with UNICEF. “So the consequences are obviously huge.”

The United Nations launched a major campaign last month to try to end statelessness for an estimated 10 million people around the world within 10 years. Syria’s civil war is one of the major trouble spots, with more than 3 million people fleeing to neighboring countries to escape the bloodshed. For Syrian refugee women who give birth, acquiring the legal documentation with the local government is a chief concern. And yet, an estimated 70 percent of the 42,000 children born to Syrian parents in Lebanon since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011 remain off the books, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

That figure only relates to the 1.1 million refugees registered with UNHCR. Lebanese officials estimate there are another 500,000 unregistered Syrians in the country. It is not known how many children have been born among that population, but whatever the number, they likely have an even lower rate of registration.

The daily hardships of life as a refugee keep many Syrian parents from registering their newborns: no money, no documents, little time off from work. The process is complicated, with multiple steps that require travel from one government office to another, money for fees and, most importantly, a slew of documents. Without the parents’ marriage license, for example, the birth of a child cannot be registered. But many Syrians had to flee their homeland on short notice and so left legal papers behind, or their papers were destroyed along with their homes.

At a natal clinic in a run-down neighborhood in south Beirut on a recent dreary December morning, around a dozen Syrian mothers with children in tow sat on green plastic chairs waiting for a checkup with the resident midwife. Most of the women said they were aware of the need to register their newborn, but only around half of them had.

Outside, one mother named Khawla from the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria cradled her newborn son in her arms as her curly-haired two-year-old, Mohammed, stomped around the damp pavement. “It took us eight months to register Mohammed. We’re thinking we may not register him,” she said, nodding at her baby boy, Yousef, asleep in a bundle of clothing in her arms. “My husband works from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day in a grocery store, so he doesn’t have time to go through the whole process. We’re waiting for a miracle to register Yousef.”

For another young mother, who gave her name as Zeinab, the barrier to registering was with the paperwork required by Lebanese authorities. “I want to register my two youngest,” she said. “The problem is they asked for documents from Syria, but we can’t go back.”

Both women declined to give their last names out of fear of causing trouble with Lebanese authorities. In Lebanon, the process begins when the child is born and new parents receive a birth notification from an authorized doctor or midwife. The parents must then take that, along with their own identification cards, to the local mayor to get a birth certificate for a small fee.

Then they have to register the birth certificate with a local government department handling family status records. Finally, they must register it again at another office, the provincial personal status department. Each of those steps has its own fees.

The haphazard conditions of refugee life add complications. If the parents married as refugees in Lebanon without getting the proper papers, the process hits a dead end. If a woman gives birth without an authorized midwife or doctor, she can’t even get the birth notification that starts the process.

“We’re getting to the stage where awareness about it is more widespread, but the procedures are a bit difficult to understand … and there are barriers that cause people problems,” said Jocelyn Knight, the protection coordinator for the International Rescue Committee’s office in Beirut.

“I think just because of the number of steps involved, it can be quite daunting for new parents and they’re not really sure what to do.” The U.N. refugee agency and non-governmental organizations have been pushing to raise awareness among Syrian refugees across the Middle East of the need to register their children.

The situation is markedly better in Jordan than in Lebanon, for example. There, UNHCR says 70 percent of Syrian babies have been registered. U.N. officials say progress has been made in the past six months to raise awareness in Lebanon.

“If you think in terms of the hope for these children to go back to Syria one day, if and when conditions allow, not having any legal document will make them like ghosts going back to their country,” UNICEF’s Castrogiovanni said.