At least 29,661 children have been killed since the Syrian civil war started, including those tortured and those involved in forced disappearances, a rights group said Saturday, marking World Children’s Day and drawing attention to the woes of Syrian children.
"At least 29,661 children have been killed in Syria since March 2011, including 181 due to torture with 5,036 forcibly disappeared. Devastating report by SNHR,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In its 10th annual report on violations against children in Syria, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reiterated that Syria had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, as well as ratifying the two optional protocols for the convention.
“Yet, all the parties to the conflict have violated the rights of the child, and the Syrian regime has far exceeded all other parties in terms of the amount of crimes the regime perpetrated in a regular and systematic manner,” the SNHR said in the 55-page report.
“This situation and these atrocious conditions can only continue because the reason for this continuing conflict – the existence of the ruling dictatorship, and the international community’s failure to find a political solution since 2012 – has not changed, indicating that new generations of Syrian children are facing a similar dark fate,” Fadel Abdul Ghany, executive director of the SNHR, stressed.
According to the report, out of the 29,661 children killed in the war, 22,930 were killed by Bashar Assad’s regime forces, 2,032 by Russian forces, 958 by Daesh and 71 by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while the U.S.-backed YPG, the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian wing, has killed 237.
The YPG also forcefully conscripts children, and the practice was also carried out by the regime, the report said. Indicating that Syrian regime forces regularly conscript children, it underlined that this has been ongoing since the earliest days of the conflict. “There have been no investigations or accountability for any instances of child recruitment.”
“The Syrian regime is responsible for nearly 78% of extrajudicial killings,” it said, adding that the year 2013 was the worst for children, followed by 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Furthermore, regime bombings also caused the total or partial destruction of at least 1,197 schools and 29 kindergartens, putting the majority of them out of service. It recorded “the use of schools as military bases by the Syrian regime and its allies.”
For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further gains of territory and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, causing the displacement of almost half of the country's population.
The situation is especially worrying in the last opposition bastion, Idlib, one of the main targets of the Assad regime.
The Idlib region is home to nearly 3 million people, two-thirds of them displaced from other parts of the country.
Nearly 75% of the total population in the opposition-held Idlib region depends on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs, as 1.6 million people continue to live in camps or informal settlements, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged under an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The area has been the subject of multiple cease-fire agreements, which have been frequently violated by the Assad regime and its allies.
Similarly, the White Helmets civil defense group on Sunday announced that 63 children have been killed by the Assad regime and Russia in the past six months.
“Most were born into Assad's war and never had the chance to leave it. They died with unfulfilled dreams – to live in peace and safety like other children. When does the world say no more?” the group wrote on Twitter.
“On the World Children's Day, we remind the world that there are thousands of children in northwest Syria who are dying in silence in the displacement camps. For a decade their lives turned upside down, they were displaced by violence and hunted by hunger,” it added.
The SNHR recommended, “Humanitarian aid operations should be coordinated according to the areas worst affected and should avoid bowing to pressure and blackmail by the Syrian regime, which is working to harness aid to its advantage, and take into account the special needs of girls who have been directly affected by violations.”