Imprisoned Australian teen Yusuf Zahab feared dead in Syria jail: Report

Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

Australian teenager Yusuf Zahab is feared dead in a Syrian jail, after he was imprisoned without charges in 2019, the BBC reported on Monday.

The 17-year-old Australian was taken to Syria by his relatives in 2015 and his Sydney-based family has since been “heartbroken and angry,” because he had been begging for help for years.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Although it is still unclear how Zahab is suspected to have died, rights groups said in January that he was injured in an ISIS attack on a prison in Syria’s Kurdish-controlled northeast in an attempt to free its imprisoned fighters.

With the support of the US, Kurdish fighters fought the ISIS militants for a week, killing over 180 people in the process.

In voice recordings which Zahab sent to his family at the time, he reportedly said that he “might die at any time,” as the fighting continued to intensify. Scared, he told them he had “lost a lot of blood” and that there were no doctors to help him.

According to United Nations’ children’s charity agency UNICEF, almost 850 children were detained in 2019 – after the fall of ISIS – in case they posed a security risk.

According to the BBC report, the teen’s family described him as a happy and compassionate child.

Australian teenager Yusuf Zahab is feared dead in a Syrian jail, after he was imprisoned without charges in 2019. (Twitter)
Australian teenager Yusuf Zahab is feared dead in a Syrian jail, after he was imprisoned without charges in 2019. (Twitter)

“Even in the final messages we received from Yusuf, he asked us to tell his mum that he loved and missed her… Yusuf didn’t want to die.”

They also said that Australian government “knew about Yusuf’s predicament for more than three years” before leaving office in May, stating that they were “unaware of any efforts to support, care, or inquire about him.”

The boy’s family and rights groups Save The Children and Human Rights Watch urged Australia to repatriate women and children who remained in Syria, but the Australian government previously said that it was too dangerous to repatriate its citizens in Syria.

Australia evacuated eight orphans in 2019, according to the BBC, but around 63 Australians remain stuck in Syria, 40 of whom are children.

The foreign ministry of Australia has reportedly said that it is working to confirm whether Zahab has been killed, and remains “deeply concerned” about its citizens who are stuck in the northeast of Syria but its assistance is “extremely limited” due to security risks.

Read more:

Syria Kurds urge Russia, Iran to prevent Turkey attack

German court convicts soldier who posed as refugee for attack plot

US drone strike kills ISIS Syria chief

Top Content Trending