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
    0

    Comment number 42.

    all; about power,and they the assad regime do not care who gets hurt

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

     
    I would like to know why the BBC is not reporting this;

    http://metronews.ca/news/canada/574954/canadian-missing-in-syrian-near-golan-heights/

    Is our Foreign Secretary afraid it will make his buddies look bad?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 40.

    "Syria'a children targeted and under fire"

    Don't worry people, just like the regime change in Iraq and Libya, these headlines will soon disappear when 'The Job has been done'.

    Using children' deaths as propaganda is sickening, but that's exactly how low your media has become.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 39.

    . . . this is war! In wars people die, civilians as well; just like they did when the germans bombed our cities and we bombed theirs. The only way to reduce the number of casualties is to enable one side or the other to intensify their activities and bring the conflict to a speedier conclusion.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 38.

    There is no chance of either side winning. We have a stalemate. Assad still controls much of the country but he is unable to defeat the rebels. In turn the rebels are unable to dislodge Assad.
    People are dying.
    And yet we exacerbate the situation by aiding the rebels.
    Madness.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 37.

    34.Shailesh
    2 Hours ago
    Children are face of God Please Protect Children Request to All They are Innocent Toddlers Please Protect Them Please Let Us all Join for Good Cause Children are Children Innocent they are God Plz......

    You want to get yourself a job as a BBC foreign affairs correspondent mate.. I think you've got the kind of stuff they're after..! :)

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 36.

    To Peter_Sym @ 32

    Rebels plant IEDs & car bombs in city centres where women & children are among those killed

    Assad's forces aim weapons at terrorists embedded in civilian areas

    Accidental causalities occur

    Atrocities have been carried out to families who refuse to provide food & shelter to terrorists. They are eventually driven from their homes

    There's always two sides to an argument Peter

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    Lyse Doucet. Chief International Correspondent..

    Lyse Doucet. Hysterical Reactionary BBC Warmongerer..

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 34.

    Children are face of God Please Protect Children Request to All They are Innocent Toddlers Please Protect Them Please Let Us all Join for Good Cause Children are Children Innocent they are God Plz......

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 33.

    @30.Theophane
    Oh so you are down parliment speaking to your local MP and all that to ensure this doesnt happen or are you just commenting on HYS?

    @29.CharleyFarley
    I wasnt requesting it to be voted down, I ment if you did you are as ignorant as the rest of the people. I have said something meaningful aka DO SOMETHING RATHER THAN COMPLAIN. And rants are comments as they are both statements

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 32.

    26. WhyMe44
    How dare you insinuate that anyone who opposes the arming of mercenaries and the killing of young lives are simply having "cheap digs at the West."

    Argue your case, but don't stoop to such a level
    --
    Thanks for making my case. You seem to suggest only the rebels are killing children, not Assads forces.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    The whole situation is so desperately sad, and all in the name of what?

    Religion, the greatest cause of all war masquerading as the answer to all the worlds problems.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 30.

    "I cannot say I do but at least I dont have the stupidity and the ignorance to sit there and pretend I do."

    When we know that the UK government is capable of spectacular dementedness in its policy towards the ME (cf. Iraq 2003), above all when it is bent on 'regime change', in cahoots with Washington and the Dark Age thief-crucifiers of Saudi Arabia, it is right and necessary to speak out.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 29.

    Howesyourview @ 28
    ".. some of you complain but I do not see YOU solving their problem... at least I dont have the stupidity and the ignorance to sit there and pretend I do. ..Vote this down and your just as ignorant as the rest"

    ===============

    Why do want your comment voted down when you haven't said anything meaningful?

    It needs to be voted down though because it's a rant - not a comment.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 28.

    I would of thought that you would learnt what these people are like.

    some of you complain but I do not see YOU solving their problem.

    I cannot say I do but at least I dont have the stupidity and the ignorance to sit there and pretend I do

    No matter if it's hyped up by the bbc,on going or what. Killing children is WRONG end of story.

    Vote this down and your just as ignorant as the rest

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 27.

    For the sake of the children, it is critically important that all the warring parties move to negotiate a cease-fire, to be followed by peace talks, without unrealistic pre-conditions, such as demands from *either* side that the leader of the opposing side steps down.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    Peter_Sym @ 21:
    "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. "

    How dare you insinuate that anyone who opposes the arming of mercenaries and the killing of young lives are simply having "cheap digs at the West."

    Argue your case, but don't stoop to such a level

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 25.

    There is a determined effort by the UK establishment to whip up public support for intervention in Syria, in this case using the emotive subject of children

    Listen Hague. It is not our war If Saudi Arabia wants sectarian regime change & the US want to carry on fighting the cold war against Russia let them but don't let them bully the UK into doing this

    You don't have public support

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 24.

    This was is taking place because Islam extremists wish to exert religious rule over the country, and because Assad is not their preferred flavor of Muslim. The anarchists (called rebels by the liberal press) are the more dangerous and destructive party here. British support for them is a very bad thing for the world as a whole.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 23.

    Jaker @ 7
    "Russia should be ashamed...in fact...the World should be ashamed."

    Russia is probably the only country that has thought this through.

    See CharleyFarley @ 20 and watch the Alexei Pushkov video:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21782379

    How can Hague sleep at night knowing he is supporting the suffering of so many children?

 

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