At Least 29,661 Children Have Been Killed in Syria Since March 2011 Including 181 Due to Torture, with 5,036 Forcibly Disappeared
Press release (Link below to download full report):
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has today issued its tenth annual report on violations against children in Syria. The report, issued to mark the annual World Children’s Day, reveals that at least 29,661 children have been killed in Syria since March 2011, including 181 due to torture, in addition to 5,036 arrested/forcibly disappeared children. The report stated that hundreds of children participated, along with their parents and other family members, in the peaceful protests across the country, representing symbols of the early hope and innocence of the uprising. And due to the Syrian regime’s relentless, brutal and indiscriminate mass arrests and targeting, shooting and killing of unarmed protesters, these violations were committed against children as well. This deliberate and calculated targeting of civilians and residential neighborhoods, which has been and remains a constant Syrian regime policy and a measure of the regime’s character, explains the terrible high numbers of child victims in the Syrian conflict.
The 55-page report mentioned that Syria’s leadership has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, as well as ratifying the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 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 report stated that the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child, established by the Treaty Body for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, bears legal and ethical responsibilities to follow up on the situation of children’s rights in Syria and to help in bringing an end the violations perpetrated by the Syrian regime.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, executive director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said:
“This report reminds us that many violations against children are still being perpetrated by the Syrian regime at such a level that they amount to crimes against humanity, including enforced disappearance, torture, and forced displacement. As the report confirms, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered and are still enduring the most intolerable humanitarian conditions, as they have done for years. 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”
The report shed the light on the catastrophic state of children in Syria, and outlines the record of violations against children by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and November 20, 2021, according to SNHR database. The report provided 10 accounts that SNHR collected through speaking directly with eyewitnesses, which are not cited from any open sources. The report is also based on the daily ongoing monitoring and verification of incidents and news and the collection of evidence and data, as well as analysis of videos and photos posted online.
The report refers to the cooperation between SNHR and the UNICEF Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), and SNHR’s nomination of the Syrian child Muhammad Nour Al Asmar for the International Children’s Peace Prize for the year 2021.
The report documents the deaths of 29,661 children at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and November 20, 2021, including 22,930 children killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 2,032 at the hand of Russian forces, 958 at the hands of ISIS, and 71 at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). The report adds that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have killed 237 children, while the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army killed 996 children. A further 925 children were killed as a result of attacks by the US-led coalition forces, and 1,512 children were killed at the hands of other parties. The Syrian regime is responsible for nearly 78% of extrajudicial killings, and accumulative index shows that 2013 was the worst year in terms of targeting children with killings following by 2012, 2014, 2016.
In terms of arrest/ detention, enforced disappearance, and torture, the report reveals that at least 5,036 children are still arrested/ detained or forcibly disappeared by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 3,649 at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 42 at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, 667 at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and 359 at the hands of the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army. The report adds that 319 of these children were arrested by ISIS before its retreat and are still forcibly disappeared, as of November 20, 2020. The report included an accumulative index graph for the arrests of children since March 2011, that showed 2014 was the worst year in terms of targeting children with arrests, and about 61% of the arrests recorded were at the hands of the Syrian regime forces.
As the report reveals, 181 children have been killed under torture in Syria since March 2011, including 174 in the Syrian regime’s detention centers, while two children in Hay’at Tahrir al Sham detention centers, and one child died under torture in the detention centers of each of ISIS, Syrian Democratic Forces and the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, and two children died due to torture at the hands of other parties.
The report revealed that Syrian regime forces have committed several types of sexual violence against children, pointing out the lasting physical and psychological ramifications on the victims. The report recorded at least 539 incidents of sexual violence against children.
According to the report, continued bombardment by the Syrian regime forces since March 2011, causing the total or partial destruction of at least 1,197 schools and 29 kindergartens, putting the majority of them out of service. The report also recorded the use of schools as military bases by the Syrian regime and its allies. The report added that repeated forced displacement due to attacks and violations committed by the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as the deterioration of the education system, which led to the exclusion of tens of thousands of children from the educational process, and widespread poverty, have contributed to the spread of child labor. The report mentioned that the phenomenon of the worst forms of child labor is considered one of the most widespread phenomena in all regions of Syria.
Syrian regime forces regularly conscript children, a practice which they began from the earliest days of the popular movement, and facilitated children’s recruitment in foreign and local militias. There have been no investigations or accountability for any instances of child recruitment. Children conscription by the regime forces having resulted in the deaths of at least 62 children on Syria’s battlefields since March 2011 up until November 20, 2021. The report estimates that there are no less than 1,374 child soldiers in the Syrian regime forces ranks. In addition, at least 78 children being recruited into Iranian militias or militias supported by Iran, 23 of them killed while participating in hostilities.
The report considered the remnants of the weapons used by the Syrian regime and its allies to bombard the areas not under its control in a massive and indiscriminate manner among the most prominent dangers that threaten the lives of civilians, especially children, at the forefront of these are the remnants of cluster munitions used in a large-scale and indiscriminate manner. The report recorded the death of at least 436 children, either in attacks where the Syrian regime used cluster munitions, or as a result of the explosion of old remnants of cluster munitions in areas previously bombed by the Regime using these weapons. While landmines planted by other parties to the conflict are the second threat after cluster munitions.
The report mentioned that according to the UNHCR, there are currently at least 2.5 million displaced children in Syria, most of whom live in camps or settlements of tents which cover large areas in most areas outside the control of the Syrian regime forces. The displaced suffer from the worst living conditions, as the lack of healthcare facilities and educational centers in the camps has led to low levels of health, causing the children especially a lot of suffering, meaning that residents must travel for long distances or move simply to receive basic healthcare if any is available, and depriving them of access to education; all these factors have in turn caused steep increases in disease and illiteracy among the displaced children.
The report added that cluster munition attacks launched by the Russian forces since their military intervention on September 30, 2015, killed 67 children. And their military operations damaged no less than 220 schools.
The report also outlines the violations by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, which, in addition to carrying out killings and detentions, has established training camps for children, enrolling them in sharia courses in an effort to influence their beliefs and to direct them to take up arms and fight similar to the tactics used by ISIS. HTS has also taken control over many schools in areas under its control, and converted them to affiliated civilian and military headquarters. The report documents, as of November 20, 2021, that HTS had attacked three schools.
The report also sheds light on Syrian Democratic Forces’ widespread forced conscription of children. Although the Kurdish Self-Management authority signed a joint action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment of children into its ranks and to demobilize those already recruited, while the People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units signed a commitment with Geneva Call in June 2014 to prohibit the use of children in fighting, their recruitment of children did not end as a result. The report documents at least 136 children are still conscripted by the SDF since its establishment, and approximately 29 conscripted children subsequently killed on the battlefields. The report also documents that at least 11 schools were attacked by Syrian Democratic Forces as of November 20, 2021.
The report also includes the most notable violations committed by the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, noting that in addition to the killings and arbitrary detentions, the Armed Opposition Factions have exploited the poor living conditions children live under to conscript children into their forces. As the report reveals, nine children have been killed while participating with Armed Opposition factions in fighting on the battlefield. The report also documents that at least 35 schools were attacked by the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, as of November 20, 2021.
The report mentioned that the UN Secretary-General reports on children and armed conflict shows that Syria is the worst and one of the worst countries in the world with regard to several violations, and in this context the report included an analysis of the two reports issued in April 2021, and June 2021.
The report stresses that despite the vast arsenal of international laws on the rights of the child which aim to ensure they are protected at all times, violations of the right of children in Syria have not stopped for nearly nine years, and none of the parties to the conflict have respected these laws, including the Syrian regime which has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child; this ratification, however, failed to deter the regime from committing violations against children that amount to crimes against humanity through extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, as well as war crimes through forced conscription. The report adds that many of the violations committed by the other parties to the conflict against children may also constitute war crimes in the context of being committed against the background of the conflict, and widespread violations of international human rights law if they are committed against children in areas controlled by these forces.
The report recommends that the international community should protect and assist forcibly displaced children, including IDPs and refugees, especially girls, should take into account their specific needs, primarily for protection.
The report stresses the need to take all possible legal, political and financial measures against the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as against all perpetrators of violations in the Syrian conflict to pressure them to commit to respect the rights of children, to fulfill the commitment of pledged financial contributions, and to assist neighboring countries and provide all possible support to increase the level of education and healthcare in these countries which host the largest number of refugee children. The report also calls on the international community to establish mechanisms to end the bombing of schools and protect it, and work to create a safe learning environment.
The report further recommends that 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.
The reports added several additional recommendations.