Syria's children targeted and under fire

Syrian man carries his sister who was wounded in an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday 3 February 2013

Spare the children. That is what so many have said for so long. But in Syria, the littlest ones are not, as we often say, just "caught in the crossfire".

They are being targeted.

"Childhood under fire," warns the Save the Children charity in a new report.

"A lost generation," lamented the UN children's fund Unicef on Tuesday.

"A war on childhood," regretted the War Child charity last year.

Syrian children are too young to understand the intricacies of a complex and brutal war fought in the name of their future.

Start Quote

My best friend Kholoud died right in front my eyes when we were playing”

End Quote Randa, 12, from Homs

But they know what childhood should feel like.

"You should tell her," insisted a young boy in a Damascus suburb when his frightened mother cautiously told me "everything is fine" not far from where soldiers manned a checkpoint.

"The helicopters attacked yesterday," he earnestly explained in a little person's voice and with a big person's courage.

"We are staying in our houses because we're really scared. We're begging them to stop."

But the war is not stopping; it is getting worse.

The latest report, from Save the Children, cites research that one in three children say they have been hit, kicked or shot at, as fighting between rebels and government forces has escalated over the past two years.

Syrian children attend an early morning class by candle light due to the lack of electricity at a school in Kadi Askar area in the northern city of Aleppo on 9 February 2013 Unicef says one in every five schools in Syria has been destroyed, damaged or converted into a shelter

"My best friend Kholoud died right in front my eyes when we were playing," a brave 12-year-old told us last year as she fought back tears in a so-called "child-friendly space" run by War Child in northern Lebanon, home to many refugees.

"A bullet went through her cheek and came out through her neck."

Randa's own house was hit by a rocket in the city of Homs: a wall fell on her mother, father, and younger brother.

"My mother said, 'Thank God we survived.'"

But then the family fled, like millions of other Syrians.

'Absolutely terrified'

When we visited the same neighbourhood in Homs, we found a devastated and desolate place.

Among the few families still living in the ruins, we met a woman and her young son.

Rahid gave us a shy teenage smile.

"Do you miss playing with your friends?" I asked.

He looked down at his ragged shoes.

"They're all dead," he mumbled.

A Syrian boy holds a bird in his hand that he said was injured in an airstrike hit the neighbourhood of Ansari, in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013 Many Syrian children have reportedly experienced the death of a relative or friend

For most children, there is not even the comfort of returning to the routine of school.

Unicef's latest report says one in every five schools has been destroyed, damaged or converted into a shelter.

Syria's statistics can be numbing as they continue to climb. But in all the numbers, there is a story about children.

We often hear how more than 70,000 have died.

Save the Children says three-quarters of children have experienced the death of a relative or close friend.

There are more than a million refugees - the UN says more than half of them are children, most under the age of 11.

Visit any of the many refugee camps or informal settlements now spreading in neighbouring countries at alarming rates of growth.

Children are everywhere, sometimes laughing and playing as children do, but often coughing with cold and fever, or crying.

Syrian children walk amid tents at the Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border with Jordan in Mafraq on 7 March 2013 UN says more than half of Syrian refugees are children

This month I heard another story about an 11-year-old who survived a terrible war.

Her name is Babs Clarke - a British woman, now 81 - who still lives with painful memories of what is now called the worst but least known civilian disaster of the World War II.

"I was absolutely terrified," she told me as she recounted what happened on 3 March 1943 at London's Bethnal Green tube station when 173 died in a crush of people.

"I remember my father. I idolised him. He was such a big man… but on that day he cried."

Ms Clarke, and many like her, took decades to talk about their childhood pain.

Syrian children are sharing their stories now.

And the rest of the world cannot say they do not know what is happening.

Lyse Doucet Article written by Lyse Doucet Lyse Doucet Chief international correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The war in Syria is getting worse, not because of Russia of China blocking regime change, but because of our warmongering politicians of the US and UK poodl,e who not prepared to talk to Assad, but want to arm the rebels.
    Stopping the violence is quite simple. Get everyone around a table including Assad and moderate opposition (not Al-Queda) and Russia and the West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    From years of HYS experience I've come to the conclusion that NOTHING is so terrible, no leader so evil & no death toll too enormous to stop people backing them for cheap digs at the West.

    What this shows is the UN is useless. The civilised world could stop this bloodshed in weeks but won't because there is no 'world policeman' & no real desire to make difficult choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    If Assad cannot flush out these rebels & mercenaries without causing civilian causalities, then maybe it's time ALL nations worked together to help.

    1. Rebels & mercenaries must be told to withdraw immediately

    2. Assad must agree to talks with the opposition

    For those who think Russia is the problem, watch the Alexei Pushkov video on this page:

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Instead of giving GUNS and armoured trucks Why not give food and help to the people from all sides in this Nasty War which we are supporting . Have we not learnt from Libya that these Guns will in some cases be used to Kill our own People ! And apart from that should not the money for these guns ect go to support our own brave troops who's numbers are being cut due the fact that we are BROKE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    This makes me so sad. Whatever the cause of war, whatever the politics, it is always the innocent that suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Yet more pro rebel propaganda spurted from the BBC. They simply act as a mouthpiece for the rebel/terrorist cause. There is a war over there, because western supported/financed rebels have been engaging in terrorist insurgency activity for the past 3 years.. There was no war before that.. It's not the 'Evil/brutal regime' suddenly deciding to kill a load of children.. Utter nonsense, BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.


    Try doing a little research before making typical media induced naive comments.

    There, easy isn't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    13. Paranoia??, Ahh yes, that must be the Paranoia of the Communist, maybe its infectious. The Paranoia must be caused by our state media who report that Al Queda, fighters & aligned groups are pouring into Syria to help the wonderful Pro-Democracy rebels beat the Scary Dictator. Paranoia, Err no, I've heard this rot before. Tunisia, Libya & Egypt. But not Bahrain, N Korea, Saudi etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Of course this won't stop weapons from pouring in into Syria. Leaders of the world should be ashamed of this and hang themselves in The Hague.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    11.RayCraig - "......Why is Hague backing Al Qaeda?........Hague seems to want Children killed as long as they are Christian. Evil it is.."

    Your paranoia is staggering - Al Queda? Let's see your evidence for that claim......

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    No one can dispute the suffering of the Syrian people. It is difficult to see how sending more arms to a country awash with arms can ever reduce the violence and number of casualties. For a view of events from the Christian communities inside Syria visit the web site the latest story is titled "Gregory III appeals: "the sending of arms to Syria must be stopped"

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Syria is the home to the oldest Christian groups & the Armenian Christian groups who escaped the Turkish Genocide in 1915. To allow the rebels to wipe these groups from the face of the Earth would be a crime against humanity. Why is Hague backing Al Qaeda? Is this a another Ulster where the terrorists are given power? Hague seems to want Children killed as long as they are Christian. Evil it is..

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    May God bless Lyse Doucet for her fortitude in bringing us truth to the attrocites in Syria. And may your readers know this - The Euphrates & Tigris rivers, being Syria's and Iraq's water supplies, are being dammed for foreign owned hydro electricity supply - one of the 22 dams known as Lake Assad. And as the west watch their cooking & weight loss shows western Nazism steals global freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    “As I went Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, ..still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But.. more. This was being discussed as part of a 5yr campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.” Ex Nato Cmdr General Wes Clark

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    “Let me say to the soldiers and officials still supporting the Syrian regime — the Syrian people will remember the choices you make in the coming days….”
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Friends of Syria conference in Paris’ July 7, 2012

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Russia should be fact...the World should be ashamed.

    All the comments so far (but two) never mention anything about the suffering of the children of Syria both inside & outside that country, but more rant on about their dislike of US/Britain/Israel. Russia & Iran though are in Syria helping Assad butcher his people indiscriminately. & supplying arms to same to kill even more. Shame!

  • Comment number 6.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Funny how Syria was the most liberal Arab state before the fake 'revolution'. In Syria, it was compulsory for girls to attend school. Religion had to stay at home. Not anymore, with the help of the Gulf states and D. Cameron, we managed to destroy the only place in the middle east where women and minorities were respected. Yes, the west can help, please drive out the terrorists from that country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Very sad about children getting hurt because of this proxy war. Well done Mr Ian Duncan Smith the armoured vehicles and night vision goggles you sent to the so called rebels are certainly saving these children.

    What about the Palestinian children who are suffering in israeli jails for stone throwing while Israelis use live ammunition, maybe send them armoured vehicles as well. I guess not

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I see BBC is now like Twitter or YouTube: i.e., what are your comments?


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