10:53 GMT +316 February 2019
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    Russian Toddler Returns Home From Iraqi Territories Formerly Held by Daesh

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A one-year-old Russian girl was returned to Moscow on Wednesday and welcomed by her grandmother after spending some time on the territory formerly controlled by the Daesh terrorist group with her family.

    The girl's mother, Fatima Zulgayeva, born in Russia's Chechen Republic, married a Chechen from Ukraine and lived with him until 2014, when he left for Turkey in search of work. Zulgayeva followed her husband with their children, but it is unclear how the family then found themselves in Iraq, on the territory then-controlled by Daesh. The father was killed, while the mother and the girl, Khalima, were thrown into prison. Fatima later disappeared and the girl was adopted by an Arab family.

    Khalima and her grandmother, Birlant Zulgayeva, left Moscow for the Chechen capital of Grozny right away. Birlant told reporters that the girl's brothers brought back to Russia last October kept asking about their little sister every time they saw the grandmother getting ready to go out of the house.

    "Thanks to all of you, our President Vladimir Putin, we owe a lifelong debt of gratitude to [representative of the Chechen leader in the Middle East and Northern African countries Ziyad] Sabsabi and [Chechen leader] Ramzan Kadyrov," the girl's grandmother said.

    Birlant will now have to raise Khalima and her three brothers on her own, as she does not talk to the family on the father's side much.

    According to Sabsabi, Khalima received Russian citizenship a day ago, through a decision of an Iraqi court based on the testimony of the Iraqis and the Russians who lived with her mother and her brothers.

    The Russian upper house member gave the girl's grandmother the court documents, Khalima's birth certificate and passport.

    "We would have returned Khalima in any case, but it is good that it happened today, and not in a month or later. Children live in terrible conditions [in Iraq], with many diseases, although that is no reproach to the Iraqi authorities, they have a difficult situation there," Sabsabi said.

    The politician added that the girl was mostly healthy, but had some minor issues that Russian doctors were likely to be able to treat.

    According to Sabsabi, the people tasked with the girl's return had to track her down across all of Iraq. Khalima was found living with an Iraqi family on January 21, and it took the legal team two days to prepare the documents for court. The politician thanked the family for not trying to hide the girl.

    Sabsabi added that the fate of Khalima's mother remained unknown and it was impossible to verify even whether she was alive.

    The Chechen leader has backed the search for the children and women from Russia who had gone to Iraq or Syria. In August, Kadyrov published a video by the RT broadcaster made in Baghdad's orphanage on his Instagram. The video told stories of children whose parents had joined Daesh and had either died or disappeared leaving kids alone.

    About 100 women and children have returned home from Iraq and Syria so far with the help of the Chechen authorities. A special team, headed by Sabsabi, is tasked with organizing such returns.


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