Archive | August 5, 2016

Music Training Speeds Up Brain Development in Children*

Music Training Speeds Up Brain Development in Children*

By Assal Habibi

Observing a pianist at a recital – converting musical notations into precisely timed finger movements on a piano – can be a powerful emotional experience.

As a researcher of neuroscience and a pianist myself, I understand that the mastering of this skill not only takes practice, but also requires complex coordination of many different brain regions.

Brain regions – that are responsible for our hearing, sight and movement abilities – engage in an amazing symphony to produce music. It takes coordinating both hands and communicating emotionally with other players and listeners to produce the magical effect. The combination of such demands is likely to influence brain structures and their functions.

In our lab, we want to understand whether music training during childhood improves brain functions for processing sound more generally. These functions are important for the development of language and reading skills.

Music training and brain

Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behaviour of musicians compared to non-musicians.

Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Also, differences between musicians and non-musicians have been found in areas of the brain related to hearing and movement, among others.

However, the interpretation of the findings remains unclear. For example, the differences reported between adult musicians and non-musicians might be due to long-term intensive training or might result primarily from inherent biological factors, such as genetic makeup. Or, as with many aspects of the nature-versus-nurture debate, the differences may well result from contributions of both environmental and biological factors.

One way to better understand the effects of music training on child development would be to study children before they start any music training and follow them systematically after, to see how their brain and behaviour change in relation to their training.

It would involve including a comparison group, as all children change with age. The ideal comparison group would be children who participate in equally socially interactive but non-musical training, such as sports. Follow-up assessments after their training would reveal how each group changes over time.

Impact of music training on child development

In 2012, our research group at the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California began a five-year study that did just that.

We began to investigate the effects of group-based music training in 80 children between ages six and seven. We have continued to follow them, to explore the effects of such training on their brain, cognitive, social and emotional development.

We started the study when one group of children were about to begin music training through the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program. This free community-based music program was inspired by El Sistema, a music program that was started in Venezuela and proved to be “transformative” in changing the lives of underprivileged children.

What is the impact of group-based music training?

The second group of children were about to begin a sports training program with a community-based soccer program. They were not engaged in music training.

A third group of children were from public schools and community centres in the same areas of Los Angeles. All three groups of children were from equally underprivileged and ethnic minority communities of Los Angeles.

Each year, we meet every participant and their families at our institute for a testing period over the course of two to three days. During this visit, we measure language and memory abilities, capacity to process music and speech, and brain development of each child. We also conduct a detailed interview with their families.

At the beginning of the study, when children did not have any music or sports training, we found that the children in the music training group were not different from the children in the other two groups. Specifically, there were no differences in the brain’s intellectual, motor, musical and social measures between groups.

How our brain processes sound

The “auditory pathway” connects our ear to our brain to process sound. When we hear something, our eardrums receive it in the form of vibrations of air molecules. That is converted into a brain signal through a series of elegant mechanisms in the inner ear. That signal is then sent to the hearing area of the brain referred to as the “auditory cortex,” located near the sides of the brain.

Using different tasks, we measured how children’s brains register and process sound before taking part in their training and each year thereafter with a brain imaging technique called electroencephalography (EEG). This systematic investigation allowed us to track the maturation of the auditory pathway.

In one task, for example, we presented pairs of unfamiliar musical melodies to children while recording the signal from their brain, through EEG. The pairs of melodies were either identical or occasionally had tonal or rhythmic irregularities. We asked the children to identify whether the pairs were similar or different.

We checked how successfully children could detect whether the melody pairs were different and the corresponding brain responses to these occasional differences. That allowed us to measure how well the children’s brains were attuned to melody and rhythm. In general, the brain produces a specific response when detecting an unexpected change in a pattern of sound.

How music training develops the brain

After two years, the group of children who had undergone music training were more accurate at detecting changes in pitch when the melodies were different. All three groups of children were able to identify easily when the melodies were the same.

Children in the music group show a stronger brain response

That indicated that children undergoing musical training were more attentive to the melodies. Children in the music group also had stronger brain response to differences in pitch compared to the children in the other groups. We also observed that musically trained children had faster development of the brain pathway responsible for encoding and processing sound.

Three years of this study remain. But these interim results are promising. They support previous findings on the positive impact of music training on brain development.

Our findings suggest that music training during childhood, even for a period as brief as two years, can accelerate brain development and sound processing. We believe that this may benefit language acquisition in children given that developing language and reading skills engage similar brain areas. This can particularly benefit at-risk children in low socioeconomic status neighbourhoods who experience more difficulties with language development.

We hope that the findings from this study will not only lead to a better understanding of the benefits of musical training but also provide further insights into the social and psychological merits of music education for children in underserved communities.


Related Topics:

The Healing Sounds of Life

The Science of Sound – Proves You Are a Cosmic Instrument*

Turkey: Music Therapy in Modern Healthcare

The Underground Economy: Using the Gift of Music

Delivering Music Therapeutics to the Homeless

A Musical Genius who can barely Count to 10*

Russian Space Agency Reveals the ‘Sounds of the Universe’*

A Peak at the Mind Control Music Industry*

Reasons to Convert Your Music to 432hz*

Rockefeller Music Project in the War on Consciousness*

What Hillary Clinton Did To Haiti Should Scare any Voter*

What Hillary Clinton Did To Haiti Should Scare any Voter*

Related Topics:

FBI Leak: Hillary Clinton Foundation Guilty of Treason*

Controling Haiti’s Gold

The UN is Asking for U.S$40mn for Haiti!

Haiti: The Divine Right to Enslave Others*

UN “Peace” Forces Preying on Haitians*

From Child Trafficking to Head of U.N. Ops. in Haiti

Presidential ‘Hopeful’, H. Clinton Gold Digging on 100,000 Haitian Deaths*

The Half a Billion Dollars Received by Red Cross for Haiti Relief didn’t Go to Haiti*

Haiti and the Profoundly Silent Chelsea Clinton*

Haitians Are Rising Up Against the Stolen Elections*

The Clintons Treat Haiti as Their Own Vassal State*

Haiti Loses another Foul Clinton Picked President*

The Clinton’s Eugenics Agenda in Haiti*

Rothschilds, Trump, Killary and the Rigged U.S. Presidential Election*

Rothschilds, Trump, Killary and the Rigged U.S. Presidential Election*

By Baxter Dmitry

The U.S. Presidential election was rigged even before the first ballot was cast. Everybody knows Hillary Clinton is the establishment’s candidate of choice, backed by the Rothschilds and the New World Order. What is less well known is that Donald Trump is also a Rothschild creation and actor, playing a part in the great sham that is the Illuminati’s fake election, designed to keep control of the people in this supposedly “democratic” society.

Political analysts have been saying that Trump’s tilt for the presidency has been 30 years in the making. This makes more sense than they realise. 30 years ago members of the Rothschild family saved Trump from bankruptcy and took him under their wing. They recognised his potential as a “man of use” and “colourful front man” for a secretive organisation that prefers to keep itself in the shadows.

Consider how Trump built his wealth – and who supported him during his booms and busts.

“In 1987 Donald Trump purchased his first casino interests when he acquired 93% of the shares in Resorts International. Resorts International has a sordid history which began in the early 1950’s when it evolved from a CIA and MOSSAD front company which had been established for the purpose of money laundering the profits from drug trafficking, gambling, and other illegal activities. On October 30, 1978, The Spotlight newspaper reported that the principle investors of Resorts International were Meyer Lansky, Tibor Rosenbaum, William Mellon Hitchcock, David Rockefeller, and one Baron Edmond de Rothschild.”

“In 1987, upon the death of long-time CIA front man James Crosby, the nominal head of Resorts International, up-and-coming young New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump stepped into the picture and bought Crosby’s interest in the gambling empire.”

“Trump soon became a household name, with his colourful personality and his insistence upon naming a variety of luxury hotels, apartment houses and other commercial ventures after himself. But while the name “Trump” appeared in the headlines, the names of the real movers behind Resorts International – Rockefeller and Rothschild – remained hidden from public view.”

After quickly expanding the reach of Resorts International to Atlantic City in the final years of the 1980s, Donald Trump found himself in financial trouble as the real estate market in New York tanked. The three casinos in Atlantic City, like other Trump assets, were under threat from lenders. It was only with the assistance and assurance of Wilbur L. Ross Jr., senior managing director of Rothschild Inc. that Trump was allowed to keep the casinos and rebuild his threatened empire.

This was detailed in a Bloomberg article from March 22, 1992.

The same Wilbur L. Ross, still Jacob Rothschild’s right hand man, came out in support of Trump’s nomination in March 2016, also reported by Bloomberg.

Jacob Rothschild’s son, Nat Rothschild, even dated Ivanka Trump.

Both major party candidates are controlled by the globalist powers that be. You have Hillary Clinton sacrificing chickens and preparing to pay her penance to the Rothschilds. Meanwhile, Trump appears to have been bought long ago. He was made by the Rothschilds. Either way, American citizens don’t have a choice in this election. The Illuminati have been working behind the scenes for decades creating the actors to play the roles.

This was Illuminati’s plan all along. To have both candidates operating under their interests whilst systematically pitting the entire nation against each other, creating the chaos they need to push their New World Order agenda closer to completion.


Related Topics:

Official Who Served DNC Election Fraud Papers Found Dead*

#DemExit Threatens To Fracture DNC – Media Told Not To Cover Movement*

Man Proves Hacked Software Gave Hillary Stolen Votes*

Time to Shatter the Illusion of U.S. Elections*

Bilderberg 2015: Global Command & Control System*

Bilderberg meets to decide US presidential election

Extreme Voter Suppression in New York and Arizona – Demands for Recount*

Thousands Claim New York Election Fraud*California Primary Results in Voter Suppression, Election Fraud*

Ballots With Sanders Votes Covered with Erased in San Diego*

Court to Count Real Bernie Sanders Vote Tally*

Federal Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act, Discriminates Against Blacks and Latinos*

Man Proves Hacked Software Gave Hillary Stolen Votes*

Rothschild Establishes Billionaire Tax Haven Inside America*

Rothschild Bank Now Under Criminal Investigation*

Lord Rothschild ‘The Tide is Turning’*

Say Hi to the Head of your NWO Nightmare Baron Jacob Nathaniel Rothschild*

Official Who Served DNC Election Fraud Papers Found Dead*

Official Who Served DNC Election Fraud Papers Found Dead*

By Baxter Dmitry

Shawn Lucas, the lawsuit process server who served the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz with election fraud papers last month, has been found dead under suspicious circumstances.

According to a police report dated August 2nd, Lucas’ girlfriend came home and found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. Paramedics responding to her 911 call found no signs of life. The cause of death has not been confirmed.

Shawn Lucas was known to many frustrated Democrats as the young man depicted in a viral video serving the DNC and Wasserman Schultz with election fraud lawsuit papers.

“The rumor spread on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, where many users were concerned that Lucas’ death may have been connected to his role as the process server for the DNC lawsuit. Some versions asserted Lucas was the “lead attorney” on the case, but we were unable to corroborate that claim.

Lucas was named in a motion [PDF] filed on 22 July 2016 by the DNC, seeking to dismiss the suit on partial grounds of improper service,” Snopes reports.

The current status of this lawsuit is important, as the DNC moved to quash the case on the grounds that the serving was inadequate. If the person who served them is dead and nobody replaces him, it is understood the lawsuit could be derailed.

Shawn Lucas can be seen serving the DNC and Wasserman Schultz with election fraud lawsuit papers at Democratic National Headquarters last month in this video:

We contacted Lucas’ employer on 4 August 2016 to ask whether there was any truth to the rumour. According to an individual with whom we spoke at that company, Shawn Lucas died on or around 2 August 2016. The audibly and understandably shaken employee stated that interest in the circumstances of Lucas’ death had prompted a number of phone calls and other queries, but the company had not yet ascertained any details about Lucas’ cause of death and were unable to confirm anything more than the fact he passed away in early August 2016,” Snopes reported.

Shawn Lucas death public incident report


Shawn Lucas is the latest figure associated with the DNC leaks and election fraud case to die in mysterious circumstances.

Seth Rich, a DNC Data Director, was beaten, shot and killed in the morning of July 8 while he was walking home and talking on the phone to his girlfriend. Police have said they haven’t determined if his murder was a botched robbery – however this is unlikely as the killer or killers appear to have taken nothing from their victim, leaving behind his wallet, watch and phone.

Julian Assange’s lawyer, John Jones, QC, died this week after being hit by a train at a London station.

Victor Thorn, prominent Clinton researcher and author, was also found unexpectedly dead this week.


Related Topics:

Hacker of Hillary’s email found dead in prison cell?

Clintons Threatened Attorney General with Her Life*

Assassination of Top U.S. Democratic Party Official Leads to FBI Capture of Clinton “Hit Team”*

DNC Collapsing Amid Resignations in WikiLeaks Aftermath*

#DemExit Threatens To Fracture DNC – Media Told Not To Cover Movement*

Mainstream Media Blackout on Killary’s Connection to ISIS*

Ahh Fracking – that’s Why Florida is being Poisoned through the Air and drinking Water*

Ahh Fracking – that’s Why Florida is being Poisoned through the Air and drinking Water*

By Daniel Barker

On Tuesday, July 26, Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 in favour of passing controversial new water quality standards that will raise the maximum allowable levels of more than two dozen cancer-causing chemicals to be dumped into the state’s rivers and streams.

The new standards, which were based on Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommendations, were passed despite strong opposition from clean water advocates who say that the move poses a serious health threat and paves the way for widespread fracking operations in the state.

Florida regulators pimping for the fracking industry

The higher maximum allowable levels apply to several of the toxic chemical by-products produced by fracking, such as benzene, leading opponents to the conclusion that the new criteria were designed to protect the fracking industry, rather than the health of Floridians.

Benzene is a known carcinogen, and the raising of allowable limits of the toxin in Florida’s waterways is seen by environmentalists as a suspicious and dangerous move.

Benzene limits are often set higher in places where fracking operations take place, and the new DEP standards were set to nearly triple the maximum allowable levels of benzene – until protests from environmentalists and the public prompted the regulators to reduce the new limits.

The previous benzene limits in Florida were already set higher than federal standards, and – even after being adjusted before the vote – the new limits will be set to nearly double federal standards.

From the Miami Herald:

“DEP initially proposed raising the standard on benzene from 1.18 parts per billion in Florida’s drinking water sources to 3 parts per billion but, after public outcry, the agency revised its criteria and reduced the level to 2 parts per billion. The federal standard for benzene is 1.14 parts per billion.”

Benzene has been linked to leukaemia and other cancers of the blood, but it’s just one of the many toxic pollutants associated with fracking.

Environmental groups and concerned citizens spoke at the hearing, voicing their opposition to the new criteria, and calling for a delay in the voting until two vacant seats on the commission panel were filled by Gov. Rick Scott. The two vacant seats included one for an environmental community representative and another for a local government representative.

The demand for a delay was ignored, prompting one speaker – who was subsequently led out of the hearing by security – to remark that the governor

 “has spat on our decision process by keeping these seats vacant for over a year.”

Neither state nor federal regulators can be trusted to protect the public

The situation in Florida provides more evidence that state regulators are just as willing as those on the federal level to kowtow to the fracking industry – as well as other big corporate interests, such as the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

For example, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has quietly increased the maximum allowable levels of glyphosate – the carcinogenic main ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – while many other countries are either lowering limits or instituting bans against the use of glyphosate.

We can’t depend on regulators at any level of government to protect us from those who poison our environment in the pursuit of profits.

Sadly, in the United States, key positions at regulatory agencies are often filled by representatives of the very industries they are supposed to regulate.

And the money spent on lobbying by these industries usually far exceeds what environmental groups or concerned citizens can raise. Backroom deals are made, and policies are enacted, often with little or no input or awareness on the part of the public.

Our failed regulatory system has put us all at great risk by turning a blind eye to the dangerous health- and environmentally-threatening and polluting practices of the oil and gas industry – among others.

Our best hope is grassroots activism. By speaking out, signing petitions and raising awareness, we have a chance of making a difference.


Related Topics:

Voters in Oregon Defeat Nestlé’s Attempt to Privatize Their Water*

Deadly Chemicals Sprayed on Florida Residents to Eliminate Zika*

Secret Navy Testing Causes Artificial 3.7 Earthquake Off Florida*

Eugenics Originated In California, Not Nazi Germany*

Two Police Officers in Florida Forced to Step Down from Their Posts over Links with KKK*

Pentagon Approves U.N. Use of Force against Civilians*

Leaked DNC Documents Show Plans to Reward Big Donors with Federal Appointments*

Scotland Just Banned Fracking Forever*

Six More Charged in Flint Water Crisis*

Dear Future Generations: Sorry

“They are Millionaires, We are Millions!” – Nuit Debout Looks Ahead As Occupation Winds Down*

U.S. Jewish Council Mad After Black Lives Matter Tell the Truth on Palestine*

U.S. Jewish Council Mad After Black Lives Matter Tell the Truth on Palestine*

and when they’re there is usually payback

Policemen walk on the sidelines as protesters hold a sign which states “Black Lives Matter,” during a march against police brutality in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 9, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The Jewish Community Relations Council issued a scathing statement on Black Lives Matter’s platform which called Israel an apartheid state.

The U.S.-based Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement over their support for Palestine after they called out Israeli “genocide” for Tel Aviv’s continued occupation and systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.

“We are deeply dismayed by elements of this platform, specifically the co-opting and manipulation of a movement addressing concerns about racial disparities in criminal justice in the United States in order to advance a biased and false narrative about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” reads a statement from the organization.

The group also dismissed the idea that the suffering of Black people in the U.S. and Palestinians are in anyway similar.

“To conflate the experiences of African-Americans and Palestinians oversimplifies complex matters and advances false equivalencies that diminish the unique nature of each.”

The anti-police brutality movement issued its first platform and within it the group included a section on U.S. foreign policy. In the 40-page document, Black Lives Matter declare Israel an “apartheid state” which “practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades.”

The group also accused the U.S. of bankrolling a “genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” Israel receives more than US$3 billion in foreign aid, the vast majority of which translates into military aid.

“Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the U.S.-funded apartheid wall.”

But the U.S. Jewish group would have none of it. JCRC complained that Black Lives Matter are participating in “economic and cultural warfare against Israelis” and seek to “demonize Israel singularly amongst the nations of the world.”

Calling the platform a “profoundly disturbing development,” the group announced it will “dissociate” itself from Black Lives Matter, which has emerged as one of the most progressive and prominent movements in the country advocating for Black people and people of colour.

The group also falsely accused Black Lives Matter of supporting a “destructive campaign against Israel’s existence,” sentiments which do not appear once in the movement’s platform.

The row comes a few days after members Black Lives Matter travelled to Palestine and participated in a weekly protest in the West Bank against the Israeli occupation and illegal settlement activity.


Related Topics:

Palestine to Sue U.K. for the Creation of ‘Israel’*

Rabbi Admits Jewish Role in the African Slave Trade*

Israeli Minister: “Brussels Wouldn’t Be Attacked If E.U. Didn’t Boycott Israeli Products.”*

Israel, Ebola and Black Genocide*

Discovering Black Identity*

Palestinians Mourn Muhammed Ali their Greatest Supporter*

‘We Charge Genocide’: Systematic Murder & Oppression of Blacks Continues in U.S.*

Faceoff between New Black Panthers and Armed anti-Muslim Trouble-Makers*

Atlanta Mayor rejects Demand to end Israel Police Training*

Syrian Orphans Ahmed and Alin Trapped in Turkey*

Syrian Orphans Ahmed and Alin Trapped in Turkey*

By Claas Relotius

Ahmed and Alin were 10 and 11 years old when their parents died in Aleppo. They fled to Turkey and now work there as child labourers — collecting scrap and working in a sweat shop. They dream of escape, but don’t know how.

One early morning this summer, 13-year-old Alin, fatigue visible in her eyes, walks alone through the dark, pre-dawn streets of the Turkish city of Mersin. The slap of her flip flops accompanies her as she makes her way through the factory district, passing dilapidated buildings, with dogs still asleep and streetlights unlit. Alin is singing as she walks, a hopeful song about two children with little to hope for — two children who had experienced the worst, but who were to be saved nonetheless.

Once upon a time there were two children, a boy and a girl, the song’s lyrics go, and they had lost everything — their parents, their house and their country. They came from an old city and, when a war broke out in their country, they fled to a distant kingdom. They found safety, but in the service of their protectors, they were forced to work so hard that their backs bent and their hands bled. They almost died. But one day — Allah is great — they were rewarded richly for their suffering. God gave them their country back and bestowed them with gold and happiness. Now, according to the song, one that schoolchildren once learned from Raqqa to Damascus, the two children were to become the king and queen of Syria.

Alin sings with a thin voice. She turns into an alleyway and, from the building entrances on the right and left, the clatter of hundreds of machines can be heard growing louder and louder. Alin slows as the noise drowns out her song. Ultimately, she stops singing altogether, bows her head as she passes under a low door and sidles down 15 steps into a damp, windowless basement.

Inside, the smell of sweat hangs in the air. Neon light emanates from the ceiling, casting a bright glow on two dozen tender faces — 19 girls and five boys, all still children. Some prop themselves up on crutches and three are missing a leg. They line up next to each other like soldiers as a man calls out their names, shouting in Arabic, “yalla, yalla!” — “hurry up! hurry up!” — and the children set to work. Alin sits down on a plastic stool at one of the wooden tables lined up in rows. She slides a pillow behind her back, places her left foot on a pedal and grabs a pile of clothes. She takes a black T-shirt, lays it in the machine and begins sewing — first one seam and then two, three, four. By the time it grows dark again upstairs on the streets of this Turkish city on the Mediterranean, it will have been a thousand.

Later in the day, after a few hundred seams, she will start getting cramps, in her neck, in her buttocks and in her shoulders. But she won’t complain, she won’t say a word. She will do what she has to do. It is only after 11 or 12 hours that she will sneak a peek at the small clock on the wall and think about her brother, who at that moment is beginning a night shift 300 kilometres (186 miles) to the east, at a scrap yard in Gaziantep.


Stooped and Hungry

They can’t see each other or talk to one another, but Alin imagines Ahmed, several centimetres shorter than she, climbing mountains of trash and rubbish, a boy 12 years of age with oil-smeared clothing, thin arms and broad hands. Alin imagines these hands carrying heavy loads — car tires and engine parts. How her brother Ahmed collects them piece by piece, piling them on a cart behind him and pulling it, stooped and hungry, for kilometres through the city until his bones ache.

When Alin leaves the basement after 14 hours of sewing, she no longer has a song on her lips — only prayers. She folds her hands, closes her eyes and pleads for someone to come and rescue her just like the two children in the song. She and her brother — the son and daughter of parents killed in the war — who fled Aleppo and are now trapped in southern Turkey.

The story of Ahmed and Alin is one of two children, a boy and a girl, who fled the bombs in Syria and are now struggling to survive in the shadow economy of Anatolia — children who dream of a queen named Merkel and a faraway island called Europe, but who can’t find a way to get there because, for the 1.5 million children who have fled the war in Syria, there is no longer a path out of Turkey.

They tell their stories apart from one another, at different times and in different places. In a subterranean clothing factory in Mersin and on the scrap heaps of Gaziantep. They use simple words, speaking loudly at times and quietly at others. Sometimes, their voices quiver — at others, they fall silent. They tell their stories vividly and honestly — in the way that only children can.

The day when war arrived was a summer’s day two years ago. Ahmed and Alin, the children of a laundry service owner in Aleppo, were 10 and 11 years old. He, a boy with big ears who liked to eat licorice and preferred riding a bicycle and playing football to praying. She, a girl who liked doing homework, had the best grades in her class and who had been taught by her mother, a baker, how to cook.

They had just sat down to dinner. Their mother Adeeba had made couscous with dates. Mohammed, their father, had been telling them about his work. A Syrian family sitting together at a table — when an explosion, out of nowhere, knocked all four off their chairs. The bomb, which had fallen on the neighboring building, tore through three walls, leaving their living room in rubble. The children screamed and their father called for help. The only person silent was their mother, who was buried beneath the stones.

“She was just lying there,” says Ahmed, no longer breathing. And when the smoke and dust finally cleared, they could see blood flowing from her forehead. In Alin’s words, it looked “like red water in a river.”

‘Our Uncle Told Us to Leave’

An aunt washed the corpse. Ahmed and his father buried his mother at the last remaining cemetery in Aleppo, located not far away from their destroyed home.

They moved in with an uncle. Not long after losing his wife, their father Mohammed also lost his business. Even though bomb after bomb fell on their neighborhood, he didn’t want to leave Aleppo. Alin and Ahmed say he cursed Assad and the dictator’s soldiers, who had encircled half the city. The children were not allowed to leave the house — at first for weeks, and then for months. During the day, they could see smoke rising above the homes of their friends. At night, they laid in bed together with their father, clinging tightly to him each time an explosion shook the walls.

It was on a hot morning one year ago, both say, that their father left the house never to return. He had wanted to pick up food for them — pita bread, flour and a canister of water. The last remaining store in their neighborhood was located just four blocks away, but snipers lurked everywhere on the rooftops, as neighbours would later tell them. A regime solder, claimed some, had shot their father in the back of the head. Others were sure it was Islamic State fighters. Alin and Ahmed say they never saw their father again.

They have a hard time talking about it even today. When they do, their soft features become rigid and their eyes begin to wander. They don’t have many memories of their last days and weeks in Aleppo — only that, at some point, perhaps months later, they left the city. “Our uncle told us we had to leave,” Ahmed says. “He stayed,” says Alin, “but we were to disappear.”

One of their dead father’s brothers used the last money he had to pay two traffickers. The first took the children out of the city hidden in the trunk of a car. The second led them and other Syrians across the border on foot. Alin and Ahmed didn’t know where along the kilometres of barbed wire fences they actually passed into Turkish territory. They only recall that the march lasted two nights and two days and that it rained almost non-stop.

The first thing they saw of the foreign country, Alin says, were men with weapons. Soldiers picked them up behind the border — the traffickers had left them on their own. The men spoke loudly in a language that Alin and Ahmed could not understand. As if to keep them away from the rest of the country, they led the children to a forest in the Hatay province, Turkey’s southern-most corner. It was here, several months later, that the siblings would be separated from each other. It was here that Ahmed and Alin, without even suspecting it, would go their own ways — possibly forever.

At first, though, they lived in the forest together with hundreds of others who had fled, in a camp under the trees, in huts made out of cardboard and plastic tarps, without beds or food. Ahmed says the only electricity came from the battery of a broken-down tractor and the water for washing, Alin recalls, came from a dirty canal. Alin and Ahmed never saw doctors, social workers or anyone else charged with caring for them.

Part 2: Separation

To earn money and obtain food, they soon joined forces with other refugees. They followed them to the surrounding fields where they picked cotton for Turkish farmers and harvested watermelon, 10 hours a day, seven days a week. They saw Syrian girls older than them collapse under the sun. They themselves kept picking until the season ended.

Then winter arrived. The adults began looking for new work and a roof over their heads to protect them from the cold. At this point, the men and the women split up, as did the boys and the girls. It wouldn’t be for long, they were told, and the children didn’t ask any questions. Alin, who had been taught to sew by her mother, climbed onto the bed of a melon truck and rode with the women along the Mediterranean coast, 300 kilometres to the northwest — to the textile factories in Mersin. Ahmed traveled with the men to the northeast for two hours in a windowless livestock truck until they reached the outskirts of Gaziantep, a city of well over a million people.

On one evening in May of this year, with warm air announcing the arrival of summer, Ahmed, not even 1.5 meters (4’11”) tall, is pulling a cart behind him in his worn out tennis shoes. He passes industrial ruins, car repair shops and abandoned factories. Stray cats are following him. Dusk is the best time for his kind of work and he is on the lookout for anything that might still be of use — a discarded car cylinder here, a metal tub there. Every few hundred meters, he bends down and throws his new find onto his cart, which eventually becomes so heavy by the end of the night that he can barely pull it. His boss, a Turkish scrap dealer, has promised him five Kurus per kilogram, or 1.5 cents. On a good night, Ahmed says he can collect 300 kilograms, for which he earns about  4.50. He goes to bed in dirty clothing each morning at sunrise, the same time his sister Alin descends into the basement in Mersin to start work.

Months have passed since Ahmed fled Syria, and this is now his fifth job. He says the bruises on his shoulders are from carrying heavy loads and that the scars on his stomach are from the sharp edges of the metal items he has scavenged. The marks on his throat are from sparks that burned his skin.

In the beginning, when he first arrived here, he slept together with six men and 10 boys in a tent, sleeping bags and blankets packed close to each another. They worked together, welding steel in a shop, firing clinker at a cement factory or hauling stones around construction sites where five-story buildings stand today. The grown-ups saved every single lira, saying they wanted to use it for a spot on boats that would take them to Europe. In Germany, they told the children, life would be better for everyone. But then, this spring, police discovered their tent on the edge of the city, stomped it to the ground and beat them all, pushing the men into trucks like cattle. Only the boys were allowed to stay. They weren’t taken anywhere — they just stayed on the streets.

A Small Toy Robot

Now that it is daylight in Gaziantep, Ahmed leaves the scrap yard and heads for the place where he now sleeps, alone with the other children. It is a corrugated metal and wood shed furnished with blankets — a hovel nailed together on one of the brown hills that rise in the city’s south — in the direction of Mecca and Aleppo. The view from the heights extends far out over the dark homes and crescent flags, just a one hour drive from the Syrian border. Almost 2 million people now live here, with close to one in six having fled from the war to Gaziantep.

Ahmed sits on the ground cross-legged and says they built their hovel themselves using tools that they either found or stole. They are nine boys from Homs and Aleppo, from bombed-out cities and villages, all on their own in a country that none of them had known about before. They throw some trash bags and a few wooden slats and twigs on a pile to build a fire and place a pot of sweet tea on top, just like adults.

Each has his own task and his own story. Mahmud, the oldest, is 15 and had already been orphaned long before the war. Mohammed, the youngest, is 11 and he lost his parents as they fled. They hadn’t known one another before, first finding each other at the construction sites, without guardians to look after them. They built their own family — one comprised solely of children. They now get up together and gather scrap together. They pray together and they share their bread.

All that Ahmed still has from home is a backpack. Inside is a T-short emblazoned with the words “I Love Syria,” a pair of pants, socks, a bag of chocolates, a small toy robot and a scratched up mobile phone. Sometimes when he’s unable to fall asleep after work because the morning heat has already become unbearable, he takes out his mobile phone and looks at the old photos, pictures of his parents, pictures of Aleppo and pictures of Alin.

On this night, Ahmed runs a thumb across the device as he looks at photos from his old school. They show boys with gelled hair and girls with colorful headscarves, arm in arm. Ahmed doesn’t know where any of his friends are today or how they are doing. He sends them messages, but they no longer answer. Sometimes, he thinks they might still be in Aleppo. And sometimes he imagines that they’re already dead, “perhaps in Paradise.”

The Good from the Bad

Ahmed says he is no longer afraid of death. In fact, he says, he’s already seen a lot of people die. He was just starting second grade — he had only just learned to read, he says — when he watched as a man was beheaded not far from his school. He scrolls through his mobile phone until he finds a wobbly video. The clip, recorded over two years ago, shows a blindfolded man kneeling in a puddle of dark blood. Next to him is another man in black robes and they are surrounded by onlookers. The robed man is holding a large sword in his hand, pressing it to the neck of the kneeling man. He yells “Allahu akbar” — God is great. And then he hacks off the man’s head.

Ahmed says he filmed the video himself on Aleppo’s market square. His father was furious, yelling at him to delete the video and never to look at it again, but Ahmed ignored him. Now, he shows it to the others and the boys watch with big eyes. Mahmud, the oldest, furrows his brow and looks up at the night sky. “There are wars,” he says, “because there are bad people.” Mohammed, the youngest, asks how you can identify them, how you can tell the bad ones from the good ones.

Ahmed often spends time with his mobile phone after work, writing to his uncle who fled Aleppo a few months ago but who hasn’t managed to cross the border out of Syria. His uncle upbraids him frequently and writes that Ahmed should go looking for his sister. But Ahmed says he doesn’t want to leave. “I never want to go away again.”

There was a time when Alin and Ahmed grew up like most siblings do. They didn’t have much room to themselves and shared a bedroom until Ahmed was nine, with stuffed animals in the beds and pictures on the walls that they had drawn themselves. They pestered one another and pulled each other’s hair. Sometimes, when they would tell jokes late into the night, they would pull their beds close together so their parents couldn’t hear them. But now, now that the war has driven them away, they are separated by hundreds of kilometers in a foreign country. They must feel like they are in different worlds.

Their only connection is the text messages they send each other from their mobile phones almost every evening. Alin often writes how many dresses she sewed that day and she’ll occasionally send a picture of the room she is allowed to sleep in, a tight space full of torn mattresses where a dozen other children sleep as well. She writes that she is often hungry after work, but that she has no money because her entire recompense is being able to sleep in this small room. When Ahmed asks his sister what she misses most, she answers: school. When Alin asks her brother what he misses most, he is unable to answer.

A few weeks ago, when Angela Merkel traveled to Gaziantep and was led through a nicely tidied up refugee hostel for the cameras, Alin wrote to her brother:

“The girls here are saying the queen of Europe is at your place. That she’s coming to get you.”

Ahmed didn’t understand. He didn’t have a clue who Angela Merkel was and had never heard her name before. Even today, he doesn’t know where Germany is located, just that it’s part of Europe and that Europe is safe and children don’t have to work there. Ahmed says he hates working and hates it when his arms ache. He’d much rather play football — but then, as he well knows, he’d starve.

Part 3: Searching for a Happy Ending

The only German Ahmed thinks he knows is Arjen Robben. The bald football star is, of course, Dutch, but for Ahmed, light skin is the equivalent of being German. In Aleppo, he says, he used to watch FC Bayern Munich games on television sometimes in a tea house on his street. The team in the red jerseys always won and the man with no hair, says Ahmed, always scored a goal. Since then, Ahmed has believed that Germany is “a good country.” Every one of his friends thinks the same, every one of the eight other boys on the hill. But none of them knows how to get to Germany. And weeks ago, when Merkel — a queen, in the eyes of the children, who wanted to help them — visited the camp not far away, she was gone almost before she had arrived.

Ahmed and Alin know nothing about refugee quotas. They don’t know anything about Turkey, about a president named Erdogan or about a deal with the European Union. All they know is that they can’t return to Syria because it’s too dangerous and they can’t continue on to another country because the other countries don’t want them.

In Alin’s imagination, Europe is a small island surrounded by the sea “somewhere up north.” And in her dreams, Merkel isn’t a matron in pant-suits, but a young woman in white robes with silky soft skin and long, golden hair. She has never seen a photo of the German chancellor, but some of the girls she sews with have told her that all Germans are “rich and beautiful.” Alin doesn’t wonder how all Germans can be rich and beautiful when she, a child, is forced to sit in a windowless basement. She simply figures that there are enough children in Germany already.

Alin is sitting in the Mersin factory sewing little crocodiles onto white polo shirts. Lacoste, Adidas, Puma, Nike: she rapidly sews the logos onto sweat pants and T-shirts — counterfeit products that are brought from Mersin to Istanbul and from there to Bulgaria and on to Germany. At least that’s what Nasser says, a man with bad teeth and a shirt wet with sweat. He is 34 years old and comes from Syria, just like the children who work for him. He came here four years ago from Aleppo, where he worked as a tailor. After he left, he sold his car, bought around 20 Juki sewing machines and started his factory in a quarter of the city where police haven’t patrolled for quite some time.

Initially, mostly locals worked at his machines, almost all of them adults. But then, more and more Syrians began arriving, including children “who were half as expensive.” Nasser walks up the stairs, opens the door to the street and looks down the road past dozens of factories. They are all cellars like his, full of thousands of boys and girls. The only difference is that he is a refugee himself, the only Syrian factory owner around. Nasser takes a drag from his cigarette and says he has four children himself and doesn’t have a choice.


Down below, by the sewing tables, he has set up a CD player that plays Arab music 14 hours a day. A high-pitched woman’s voice sings of hope and happiness. The music spurs the children onward, Nasser says — it “keeps them in rhythm.” He paces through the rows, his hands clasped behind him like a teacher walking through a classroom. The children are not allowed to talk to each other. Talking, Nasser calls out to them, delays production and costs money. They only have a single 40-minute break each day, during which they drink warm soft drinks, eat lentil soup and relieve themselves through a hole in the cement just behind an old curtain right next to the factory floor.

Now, because it is the fasting period of Ramadhan, Alin says during one of these breaks, she can’t eat or drink anything at all during the day. She has squatted down on the floor between piles of red and black fabric. It’s only midday, but she is already so exhausted that she can hardly remain upright. She tries to think of something nice and says that her favorite thing to sew is the little crocodiles. She likes crocodiles because they are strong animals. If she could, Alin says, she would just swim away to Europe just as other women and girls did after they were unable to find shelter and work here in Mersin. They arranged a bus ticket and drove down the coast to Bodrum, where they climbed into a rubber dinghy. After that, Alin says, she never heard from them again.

She knows that people drown in the Mediterranean. But she also knows that many manage to make it across. Alin says she is jealous of the children that have made it because they don’t have to work and can go to school. She always dreamed of becoming a doctor, Alin says, but now she is afraid that she’ll have to spend her entire life in a basement. She hasn’t been to school for two years and her brother Ahmed, she says, “doesn’t even have any idea how much 12 times 12 is.”

The streets of Gaziantep and Mersin are now full of children like the two of them. And every day they walk past signs in Arabic that are posted on the sides of the buildings, next to ads for Coca Cola and images of Erdogan. The signs are from Islamic State, promising pocket money, food and a “huge family” that will take care of the children.

Alin doesn’t know exactly what Islamic State is. She is only familiar with the pictures of masked fighters that cut off people’s heads or burn them alive. Sometimes, on her way back from the factory to where she sleeps, she sees other children who have dressed up to re-enact executions.

Feeling Like a Child

Not that long ago, Alin says, she heard Nasser and other men talking about a bomb that had exploded in Gaziantep, where Ahmed lives. A car loaded with explosives had driven up to a police station. Two people were killed and 22 injured. The driver, it was said, was a young Syrian, still a child.

When Alin heard about it, it was as though she had once again been reeled in by the horrors of Aleppo. Ahmed wrote to tell her that he was okay, but that wasn’t enough for his older sister. She resolved to go get her brother and take care of him herself. The next morning, she took all the money she had, 50 lira, and climbed into a bus heading for Gaziantep.

The drive took five hours. Out the window, Alin watched the cotton fields of Adana roll by where she had once worked. She also saw the stone quarry near Gaziantep, where children are now working as well. When the bus arrived, Alin called her brother, but Ahmed didn’t pick up. She sat at the bus station and dialed his number around 20 times, but got no response. Alin kept trying for hours, until it got dark. Then she boarded the last bus heading back to Mersin.

During the ride, Alin says, she prayed hard for her brother and for a chance to see him again sometime. She also thought of the song about the two children — a song she once learned at school, in another life. The children in the song had been saved, and when the war was over, they could return home again. Alin started thinking and decided that Allah could perhaps save two children, but probably not hundreds and certainly not hundreds of thousands. And then, Alin says, she started thinking about what would happen to her and Ahmed if luck never found them — if their fate was not that of the two children in the song, but a different one, without a happy ending.

Then, a message from Ahmed arrived. He wrote: “Hello sister. We were collecting scrap all day and all night. Soon, I’ll have enough money. I’ll have enough for you and me together.”

On the morning after her return from Gaziantep, Alin went to work in the pre-dawn darkness, just like every day. She climbed the 15 steps down into the damp basement that smelled of sweat. Nasser, her boss, received her with vicious cursing because she had been missing for an entire day, leaving thousands of seams unsewn. She walked silently to her machine, shoved the pillow behind her back, put her left foot on the pedal and laid her right hand on the machine. Then tears began pouring down her cheeks. She was ashamed and covered her face with her hands, but she couldn’t stop crying. She wasn’t crying for her dead parents. She wasn’t crying because of her body’s aches and pains. It was, she says, because Nasser, an adult, had scolded her. She felt, just for a moment, like a child.


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