Last Updated: Thu Mar 01, 2012 14:32 pm (KSA) 11:32 am (GMT)

Rana Khoury: In Syria, children die and live too early

Syrian children in a refugee camp in Turkey. The picture is taken by Edith Bouvier, the French journalist wounded and trapped in Homs. It is posted on her blog.
Syrian children in a refugee camp in Turkey. The picture is taken by Edith Bouvier, the French journalist wounded and trapped in Homs. It is posted on her blog.

If Tunisia has its Mohammad Bouazizi, Syria has its Hamza el-Khatib, the Syrian boy who died allegedly while in government custody.

On May 25, 2011, his body was delivered to his family, having been badly bruised, along with burn marks, gunshots and other horrifying signs of torture.

Hamza was just a child when he was tortured and killed. But he was also only a child when he stood up for his rights. He was arrested during a protest in the city of Daraa on April 29, 2011. He was asking for a future where he would be able to live as a free man. He died at the age of 13.

Hamza’s story is becoming the tale of many children in Syria who die while still in the first stages of their lives or age much faster than other children ─ taking responsibilities and stances that only few in the world can imagine at such tender ages.

Initiating, creating, taking actions are part of the daily life of the children of the revolution.

The walls of Syrian schools have been ‘vandalized’ with graffiti created by children asking for the fall of the regime.

Many YouTube videos and Facebook links show children-only protests, banners written by schoolboys and girls, videos of young ones recording revolutionary statements ...

It can prove painful to watch a wounded child ─ be it psychological or physical ─ handle a situation in a calm, mature and unselfish manner; especially as that situation can be traumatizing for the most experienced of adults.

The United Nations believes some 500 children have been among the at least 7,500 people killed since anti-government protests began in Syria in March 2011. Human rights organizations estimate both figures to be twice the amount.

The U.N. report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated in November 2011:
“The information collected indicates that children have suffered serious violations and that State forces have shown little or no recognition of the rights of children in the actions taken to quell dissent. Witnesses informed the commission that children (mostly boys) were killed or injured by beatings or shooting during demonstrations in several locations across the country.”

On the psychological trauma that haunts children of the Syrian revolution, the report said: “The commission spoke with several children who had witnessed the killing of adults and of other children, and also met a 2-year-old girl whose mother was killed by the Syrian military in August while trying to cross the border. The commission saw several children whose mental health was seriously affected by their traumatic experience.”

Death and emotional suffering are not the sole nightmares facing children in Syria. We are also witnessing an atrocious detention journey, which not only would be inhuman to any adult, but horrific when it touches children souls. The U.N. report stated that “numerous accounts from former detainees indicated the presence of children, some younger than 10, in detention centers in various locations run by the military and security forces. Torture was reportedly applied equally to adults and children.

Several former detainees informed the commission that young boys were tortured at the Air Force Intelligence detention facilities. They were beaten mercilessly, including 10-year-old children. Some children urinated out of fear while they were being beaten. It was very cruel. Numerous testimonies indicated that boys were subjected to sexual torture in places of detention in front of adult men.”

During their childhood, children are supposed to play, laugh, draw birds and houses and listen to bedtime stories. In Syria today, children protest, cry, draw tanks and blood, listen to the news and die.

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