BEIRUT, Lebanon — In a photo of the girl taken a few months before she died, her light brown hair is matted, her face and clothes smudged with dirt. She holds a chain in her tiny hands — a glimpse of the hardships of her all-too-short life.
Six-year-old Nahla al-Othman spent her final years living in a crowded tent with her father and siblings in an impoverished camp for Syrians displaced by a decade of war and largely forgotten by the world. To keep her from wandering around the camp, the family said, her father often shackled her and locked her in a cage he fashioned out of her crib.
Her father “used to chain her hands or her feet to prevent her from walking outside the camp,” said the camp supervisor, Hisham Ali Omar. “We asked him more than once to unchain her, not to put her in a cage, but he constantly refused.”
This month, the crises that twisted Nahla’s life came to a tragic head when she choked to death while desperately hungry and eating too quickly. Images of her in chains and the cage spread quickly on social media after her death, and the outrage over them spurred the local authorities to detain her father.
The case drew rare attention to the suffering of millions of children forced from their homes during the war and living in camps dotted across Syria’s north. Displaced by violence, stalked by hunger and lacking access to education, medical care and sanitation, they face a daily struggle to survive.
“We are talking about children who are born in tents, which become a hazard after the first rain,” said Ahmad Bayram, a spokesman for
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