Syria’s children shot at, tortured, raped: charity report

Children remove trash blocking the drains in the Al Inzarat district in Aleppo February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib

By Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT | Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:38am EDT

(Reuters) – A boy of 12 sees his best friend shot through the heart. Another of 15 is held in a cell with 150 other people, and taken out every day to be put in a giant wheel and burnt with cigarettes.

Syria’s children are perhaps the greatest victims of their country’s conflict, suffering “layers and layers of emotional trauma”, Save the Children’s chief executive told Reuters.

Syrian children have been shot at, tortured and raped during two years of unrest and civil war, the London-based international charity said in a report released on Wednesday.

Two million children, it said, face malnutrition, disease, early marriage and severe trauma, becoming innocent victims of a bloody conflict that has already claimed 70,000 lives.

“This is a war where women and children are the biggest casualty,” chief executive Justin Forsyth told Reuters during a visit to Lebanon, where 340,000 Syrians have fled.

Forsyth said he met a Syrian refugee boy, 12, who saw his best friend killed outside a bakery. “His friend was shot through the heart. But initially, he thought he was joking because there was no blood. They didn’t realize he had been killed until they took his shirt off,” he said.

The Save the Children report cited new research carried out among refugee children by Bahcesehir University in Turkey which found that one in three reported having been punched, kicked or shot at.

It said two thirds of children surveyed said that they had been separated from members of their families due to the conflict and a third said they had experienced the death of a close friend or family member.

“All these children tell you these stories in a matter of fact way and then you realize that there are layers and layers of emotional trauma there,” said Forsyth.

Syria’s civil war started with peaceful protests against the dynastic rule of President Bashar al-Assad. His forces shot at protesters and arrested thousands and soon the revolt turned into a civil war. Rebels now control large swathes of Syria.

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Syria crisis: Children ‘recruited’ by armed groups

Save the Children says the only way to stop young people’s suffering in Syria “is to bring an end to the war”

Increasing numbers of children in Syria are being recruited by armed groups on both sides of the conflict, Save the Children says in a report.

Children are being used as porters, guards, informers and fighters and, in some cases, as human shields, the charity said in Childhood Under Fire.

Some two million children are in need of assistance in Syria, Save the Children estimates.

It says the two-year conflict has affected all aspects of their lives.

Risk of diseaseResearchers from Turkey found that three in every four Syrian children they interviewed had lost a loved one because of the fighting, the report says.

Many have lost access to healthcare and are living in unsanitary conditions where the risk of disease is high. Their families are struggling for food as shortages send prices beyond the reach of poorer families.

Their education has been disrupted as some 2,000 schools have either been damaged by the fighting or become temporary shelters for displaced people.

Syria’s children are the conflict’s “forgotten victims – facing death, trauma and suffering, and deprived of basic humanitarian aid”, the report said.

Save the Children has appealed for international help, but said: “The only way to stop their suffering is to bring an end to the war.”


Syrian war has caused ‘collapse in childhood’, Save the Children warns

Two million Syrian children are victims of war, charity says in report revealing third of children have been hit, kicked or shot at

Esma, 7, and a friend peer out of a tent in Lebanon that has been home to her family since last year

Esma, 7, and a friend peer out of a tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley that has been her home since her family fled Syria last year. Photograph: Sam Tarling/Save the Children

Two million children in Syria have become the victims of bloody conflict, with many swept up in violence, and suffering from trauma, malnutrition and disease, a report says.

The catastrophic war in Syria has caused a “collapse in childhood”, Save the Children warned on Wednesday. It cited research revealing that one in three children reported having been hit, kicked or shot at, as fighting between rebels and soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad engulfed the entire country.

The report, Childhood Under Fire (pdf), was launched to coincide with the second anniversary of Syria’s anti-Assad uprising. It paints a grim picture of how children have been targeted in the war and shows that many are struggling to find enough to eat. Others are living in barns, parks or caves. Few are able to go to school. Teachers have fled and school buildings are under fire. Sanitation systems have been damaged, forcing some youngsters to defecate in the street.

The research, by Bahcesehir University in Turkey, includes harrowing testimony from refugee children, some of whom have seen their parents arrested, beaten and killed by regime forces.

One, Nidal, said: “They shot at us near my foot so I jumped. I was scared, very scared, and my friend too. We were surrounded by walls. So we jumped over walls and ran away.” Nidal recalled how his father was sleeping, and his mother doing chores, when government soldiers burst in.


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