MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: The father of a Syrian child who was repeatedly raped in south Lebanon said Friday the sexual predator had been a close friend to the family and that the traumatized boy was being treated following the ordeal.
“My son is in shock and we are trying to make him forget this suffering,” said Nasser, the father of the 4-year-old, adding that his son was “frightened and confused.”
“My son now prefers to sit all by himself [now] and does not speak to anyone,” the distraught father of three said.
Last week, the boy's parents found out that their son had been sexually assaulted on a number of occasions by a Syrian man identified as Abdel-Salam Sheikh.
The father, a plasterer, said he had employed Sheikh after the family fled their home in Syria and sought refuge in the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun.
Sheikh later became a “close friend,” the father said, adding that the man used to make regular visits to the family’s house in the southern town.
A source with knowledge of the ongoing medical tests denied media reports that Sheikh suffered from AIDS and that he had passed on the HIV virus to the young boy.
Speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, the source said the HIV test results were negative.
“I sensed that my son was sad and depressed for a while but I thought he was just sick,” the father said, adding that he learned about his son’s abuse by accident.
The father said he had overheard his youngest son asking the four-year-old to buy him candy with the money that Sheikh had given him. The child continued on to say that Sheikh had given the money after the boy had taken his pants down.
He immediately approached his son and asked him about the money.
“My son then told me that the man raped him and threatened him not to tell his mother otherwise she would slaughter the boy with a knife,” the father said.
“He was also bribing my son with money [to keep him quiet],” he added.
According to the source, the doctor said the man had most likely raped the boy more than once and that the sexual abuse began more than a month ago.
The father said he filed a complaint to the Marjayoun police department as soon as he found out about what his son was going through, leading to Sheikh’s arrest.
“He probably took advantage of the fact that we are poor and thought bribing my son was a good way to keep him quiet,” the father said.
“I treated him like a brother and I never thought he would take advantage of my kindness this way,” he added.
A statement from the Social Affairs Ministry said that the child, whom it described as the victim of a “monstrous sexual assault,” has been placed in the care of the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees since Tuesday.
“He is undergoing medical checkups and a psychiatric follow-up and there will be ongoing efforts to help the child and his family overcome this calamity,” the statement said.
The statement said caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour has contacted relevant security and judicial agencies but that they have not yet confirmed whether the assailant suffered from AIDS.
Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil has also asked the Marjayoun state hospital to support the victim and his family at the behest of Abu Faour, the statement said.
It added that the Ministry has sent a psychiatric and social support team to assess the condition of the child and his family.
The boy's mother appealed to the judiciary to hand a down a death sentence to the "monster who raped my boy so that no other child will face such an aggression."
"This is a message to all mothers: Never trust anyone," Iman said, smoking a cigarette.
"I can't even look at him [Sheikh]. I hope he dies," she said, with tears forming around her eyes.