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 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

    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

    Comment number 35.

    Lyse Doucet. Chief International Correspondent..

    Lyse Doucet. Hysterical Reactionary BBC Warmongerer..

  • rate this

    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

    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:


Comments 5 of 42



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