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Syria's Children

Louise Allain, 10th December 2013

On this year's Human Rights Day, 10th December, Siddharth Chatterjee calls for an end to the 'Appalling slaughter of Syria's Children'

A baby's cry can be upsetting, a distraction, and we all empathize with the urge to soothe that sound, sooner rather than later - imagine if that cry puts you and your family's lives at risk, because armed gunmen in the process of massacring all in your village, are made immediately aware of your location, and kill you and your crying baby.

A recent report by the Oxford Research Group says that the total of children killed since the conflict in Syria began nearly 3 years ago is 11,420. Their report makes for very distressing reading, with statistics which include 7 out of every 10 child fatalities being caused by explosive weapons, 1 in 4 being caused by small arms fire and 764 children reportedly executed, with disturbingly 112 children (including infants) tortured.

Siddharth Chatterjee who works for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies knows all about the plight of Syria's children. In an article he writes for this year's 20th World Human Rights Day on 10th December, he calls upon President Obama and President Putin, and the entire International human rights lobby, to do more to end what he calls the '..appalling slaughter of Syria's Children'.

"Who is protecting the rights of these children?" Siddharth questions, and rightly blames "depravity on all sides of Syria's combatants", for the atrocious situation that means 4,000 children have fled, alone, into neighbouring countries.

President Bashar al Assad started bombing rebel-held areas in July 2012, which has meant that markets, schools, hospitals have all been targeted to interrupt civilian life, and by doing so it means that thousands of innocent children are caught up in the cross fire.

"To this day millions of children are caught in a vicious cycle of armed conflicts and are exposed to the most egregious forms of violence, deprived of health care and an education. Their rights as children, violated with impunity." Siddharth draws to stark attention the fact that if generations of children are being lost through conflicts such as the civil war in Syria, human rights issues are still woefully inadequate in the twenty-first century.

You only need put the poignant phrase 'Syria's Childen' into Twitter's search engine to come up with entries such as Breaking News: 'Forces loyal to Syria's Assad kill at least 5 children during fighting for the town of Nabak, north of Damascus, activists say..", which is just one entry on 8th December.

'"Another coffin, another child, so many children are paying a price in this war.." Lyse Doucet told the Today Programme just last month, her voice wobbling, sickened. All over youtube there is footage of these brave little people struggling to explain their feelings to western reporters; often they get words out, but more often than not one sees a child of a tenderly, young age break down and cry as they try to describe the moment they lost their father, mother, sister, brother.

It cannot be underestimated that Syria's children are experiencing one of the most serious humanitarian disasters of recent times, and with war, it's not just mortar bombs, weaponry, death, it's sanitation, homelessness that all adds to the weight of these innocents' problems.
So suffering is not just immediate it's also that children are bearing the brunt by being traumatised, they're not able to be educated or live anything close to a normal life, they are suffering, and will possibly suffer psychologically for the rest of their lives.

A tank rolls into a street, and in split seconds opens fire - friends, neighbours, family killed; a funeral follows, and as it takes place, snipers return and shoot at a little boy stood paying his respects. The child is dead within moments.

The other worrying trend is that children as young as seven, who have fled Syria for Jordan and Lebanon are now in further mortal danger working long hours as labourers on farms or street stands, often working in dangerous and exploitative conditions.

If all goes to plan, Syria's opposition have agreed to sit down for peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's government in January of next year; sadly, even if negotiations for peace are successful, for thousands of Syria's children it will be too late, they are and will be, victims of war.

Read Siddharth Chatterjee's article

Human Rights Day

Follow Siddharth Chatterjee on Twitter