Leaving deadliest year behind, Syrian children still hope to return home

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ANKARA
Published 16.03.2019 00:53

"My dream is to return to my home. I want to leave these camps and I want the bombs to end. I want to run freely on my own land," 13-year-old Abd al-Rahman said, one of the thousands of displaced children due to Syrian civil war and living in a refugee camp.

Syria has entered ninth year of devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Bashar Assad regime brutally cracked down on a group of people who organized protests against the regime in southwestern Daraa province.

The numbers for the war vary but approximately 500,000 people have died in eight years, and while more than 6 million civilians were displaced domestically, about 5.5 million civilians have been turned into refugees. Among them, children have been one of the most suffering groups; they have been deprived of their futures and continue to face exceptionally harsh living conditions.

Abd al-Rahman describes Syria as his "beloved homeland," saying it was very hard to survive in a refugee camp as a child. Just like him, Mohamed Ali, another 13-year-old camp resident living in the Babusselam refugee camp in Syria's northern city of Azaz, voiced a similar desire for freedom and peace.

"For me, Syria is everything," he said, "It's where I want to live in freedom."

He went on to voice hope of eventually receiving an education so that he might help his fellow Syrians.

"When I grow up, I want to be a doctor," he said. "I want to treat everyone who needs help, no matter who they are or what they do," he added.

Last year was the deadliest yet for children in Syria, with more than 1,100 killed by fighting, the United Nations said on Monday. The U.N. children's agency UNICEF said it had been able to verify 1,106 child deaths from the fighting in 2018, the highest annual toll since war broke out in 2011, but that the true figure was likely to be much higher.

Set up by Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), the Babusselam refugee camp is currently home to some 15,000 refugees, including nearly 7,000 children.

Khaled, another young camp resident, lamented the "very hard conditions" faced by him and his friends at the camp.

"It's very cold here; there's mud everywhere," the 12-year-old said. "It's not clean; we can't play freely here," he added.

"We want to return to our homes," he emphasized.

Khaled said that, when he grows up, he wants "to help people affected by bombs." "I want to be a firefighter and save people," he said.

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