Syrian children are being badly traumatized after witnessing atrocities, including torture, Save The Children warned this week.
Harrowing testimony collected from Syrian refugees in humanitarian projects run by Save the Children has revealed that children have been the targets of brutal attacks, seen their parents and siblings killed in front of them, and have witnessed and experienced torture - including fingers being hacked off.
The international aid agency is working in Za’atari camp in northern Jordan, close to the Syrian border, which is home to more than 25,000 refugees. Many of the families flocking to the dusty, wind-blown camp have come from Deraa, where the 18-month uprising began.
Save The Children counselors are working to help traumatized children cope with the devastating emotional impact of their experiences. Many youngsters exhibit severe behavioral problems, like self-harming and violence toward others.
“Children in the camp have been either tortured or they have seen or witnessed the torture of their parents or the other Syrians have faced in Syria. They are shy or they are cutting themselves or they are being violent to other kids; they try to hurt other kids or hurt themselves,” said Save The Children counselor, Odeh al-Haddadin.
The agency is also calling for the U.N. to step up its documentation of all violations of children’s rights in Syria and that it should have more resources to do this, so that crimes against children are not committed with impunity.
Speaking after touring the camp, where he met refugee children, Save the Children’s chief executive, Justin Forsyth said:
“They’re telling us of their school being bombed or tanks knocking down their houses. They’re telling us of relatives that have been killed by the army, of breaking into the house in the middle of the night, of watching their brother or sister or father being shot. They’re even telling us of children being tortured in prison; little children of only 10 years old having their fingernails pulled out, even their fingers cut off. This is appalling, and it has to stop now.”
Save the Children has been refused permission to enter Syria to help more children but the charity says that much of the children's testimony corroborates violations documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations in recent months.