Gaziantep, Turkey – “Throughout the decades of Syrians’ silence on injustice and repression, only the few people without political affiliations fought the corruption of the Assad regime; They were students, enduring hardships to gain some basic rights,” said Abu Saeed, a 70-year-old Syrian man who took shelter in Turkey after violence hit his hometown of Jarablus in northern Syria.
Then Children Started Everything
Syrian children wrote slogans on the walls of their school in Syria’s Daraa, in early 2011, inspired by protests of freedom-demanding countries in the region. These actions were confronted by Syrian security “torturing and gouging nails of children” as activists said.
Peaceful public civic action started then, followed by militarization that “slew Syrians, especially children”.
Based on the documentation of Syrian activists as well as the results of a neutral committee’s investigation of the Eastern Ghouta’s incidents of chemical weapons in August 2013, the number of children killed due to aerial shelling, barrel bombs, random torture and mass executions committed by the regime forces, is one of the largest among other groups in Syria.
“The biggest massacre ever committed in Syria against civilians, mainly children, is the 21-August chemical weapons attacks where more than 1400 civilians were killed in one day,” according to reports.
More than 11 thousand children were killed in Syria since the start of the three-year-crisis.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in an earlier statement: “Children were exposed to different kinds of torture on the hands of the Syrian regime starting from hitting with metal wires, lashes and cudgels to electro-shocking and sexual violence including rape, as well as execution threats, causing burns with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torturing relatives before children’s eyes.”
However, Ban Ki-Moon mentioned the practices of opposition forces against children such as “recruiting them as fighters, porters, messengers or even human shields”.
Executive director of Save the Children organization, Justin Forsyth, mentioned to Reuters that he had met a 15-year-old child who was jailed in the regime’s prisons with 150 persons including 50 children.
Forsyth also said that the child was tortured on a daily basis by use of big tires and cigarettes burns.
“Rape is used as a punishment. The reported cases are much less than the real number as it is a sensitive issue in this conservative society. 50% of rape cases are against children,” Forsyth added.
A UN-issued report documenting violations against children in Syria talked about the crimes and brutality committed against them.
“Regime forces are responsible for the severe violations committed against children through the three-year-crisis.”
The report also pointed out how systematic siege imposed by pro-Assad army forces on large areas in Syria led to children’s malnutrition and complete lack of milk and supplementary nutrition for children as well as potable water.
“These conditions led to severe adynamia that caused some deaths as well as severe diseases and psychological traumas due to violent scenes and also early marriages of girls,” the report added.
Forsyth further proved such facts, saying: “I met a 12-year-old Syrian boy who watched his dear friend dying with a bullet in the chest near a bakery.”
Save the Children studies the early marriage cases of girls in Syria and issued a report that talked about families pushing their girls to marry early so they have fewer family members to feed and “hoping for the husband to protect their daughter of facing sexual harassment”.
Lack of Education
Up to 3 million children inside and outside Syria are unable to go to schools regularly. This figure represents half of the school-age children in Syria.
Children were deprived of their right to education due to the schools being shelled or taken for strongholds by armed groups or even collective accommodation buildings by the displaced.
Speaking to ARA News, primary school teacher Somaya Khalid said: “If we ignore this problem without considering the future risks, especially of orphans who live with no patronage, it will lead to illiteracy, early employment, delinquency and even recruitment by armed groups.”
A refugee mother based in Turkey talked to ARA News saying: “Education is the most important thing for my children.”
“Going to schools is not a hope for children and their parents only, but also an important investment in the future,” Khalid said.
The British organization of CARE Relief International pointed out that 50 thousand Syrian refugee children in Lebanon work under harsh conditions for 12 hours daily to help their families with food and shelter.
10-year-old Mohammad al-Sakran told ARA News: “I work here on Bab al-Salama border crossing as a porter. I carry luggage to the checkpoints. Sometimes the Turkish police prevent us when problems and fights take place on the crossing.”
Al-Sakran said that the wage was too low. “However, it is better than to sit doing nothing”, as he helped his widow mother to pay the rent and not be dependent on others.
One of the Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep told ARA News: “Children here sell goods on the streets and crowded places where they earn less than 5 dollars a day.”
“Others work in shops and cafes as well as farms and construction sites to make a living,” the same source added.
In Jordan, where 600 thousand Syrian refugees are based, at least 60 thousand children work.
The future of Syrian children refugees, who lost their childhood features, is endangered. Syrian activists emphasized the need for urgent action by the international community to save those children.
Reporting by: Sherin Perik
Source: ARA News
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