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Magda Gad in Raqqa: His name is Ahmed and he is seven years old

At the moment I’m at a loss for words, but I’ll try to describe what just happened.

It begins when I see nine year old Asmea standing by a track just north of Raqqah with a metal plate in her hand.

There doesn’t seem to be any food.

Sometimes she bangs the plate against things so it clangs as if that might help.

She escaped from Raqqah a week ago.

- Soldiers came to our house and told us to leave because it was

too dangerous.

- What was it like?

- They were bombing. The planes were bombing.

- What did you do?

- I cried when they started bombing. I was scared. I huddled in the house and didn’t go out.

- What was it like living under IS?

- They killed people so I daren’t talk to them. Whenever I saw an IS on the street I never said anything, just moved away.

A boy hears what we are talking about and comes over and pulls my arm.

- I saw, he says

It’s not a child’s voice. It’s a clear and sharp voice that wants to be heard.

- What did you see?

- I saw them killing people. Once I saw them cut the head off a man in the square.

I think he’s finished and start to write their stories. As I’m looking down and writing the boy pulls at me again. I hear that sharp voice continuing:

- Then they played football with his head in the square.

Slowly I raise my eyes to meet his gaze and I have absolutely no idea what to say.

What do you say to a child who has seen adults playing football with a decapitated head?

- What’s your name? I finally manage. 

- Ahmed.

- How old are you?

- Seven.

His name is Ahmed and he is seven years old.

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