In the aftermath of Syria's ceasefire the war on children resumes
In a recent interview with Channel 4 News one of President Assad’s key advisors said reports of chlorine attacks on children are “irrelevant to reality”.
She was referring to the offensive earlier in the month when barrels suspected of containing chlorine gas were dropped from a helicopter onto a market in Aleppo injuring more than 100 people including at least 37 children. In the aftermath footage emerged of children choking – at least 70 people were treated for breathing difficulties.
The attack was just another day in the life for Syria’s children, who have been bombed, deprived of school, forced to make perilous journeys to safety and are starved to death on a regular basis. Medical staff in the town Madaya recently reported that at least six teenagers, one as young as 12, have attempted suicide in the last two months.
These same children are suffering from depression, paranoia and psychological problems, as are many of the other 250,000 children living under siege in Syria.
Kids as young as 11 have been detained, tortured and sexually abused inside Assad’s prisons. They have been beaten with metal cables, electrocuted, burnt with cigarettes and kept in solitary confinement.
In July four new-born babies were killed after a triple air strike hit Aleppo’s last children’s hospital. A month earlier nine new-borns had to be removed from their incubators and put into the basement after an assault broke the equipment.
During the same month a maternity hospital in Idlib was hit with an aerial attack whilst a woman was in labour.
Five years of destruction in Syria ground to a tentative halt last week as a ceasefire brokered between the US and Russia took effect. It was cautiously welcomed by regional and international humanitarian organisations – 100 rights groups signed a statement acknowledging the importance of the cessation in hostilities as a step forward for Syria but insisting it must be accompanied by sustained humanitarian access across Syria.
AJ+ plus published a video of children shrieking in delight as they played on slides, roundabouts and swings. It stood in stark contrast to Aylan Kurdi’s dead body washed up on a beach or Omran Daqleesh, dusty and bloodied after being pulled out from under the wreckage of a regime airstrike in Aleppo, two images that have come to symbolise the desperate plight of Syria’s children.
The happiness, however, did not extend across the entire country. Two of the first three people to be killed during the ceasefire were children whilst aid destined for besieged areas – much of which would have benefited children – was not authorised to enter the country. Two aid convoys poised to cross the border from Turkey into Syria and deliver food were not granted permission to do so.
It’s unlikely this aid will get there any time soon. As the ceasefire came to an end at 1600 GMT on Monday airstrikes hit a fleet of Red Crescent trucks, killing at least 20 people as staff unloaded flour, medicine and winter clothing for the people of Uram Al-Kubra, a town west of Aleppo.
As if to confirm to the world that the relentless war on Syria’s children had resumed, Channel 4released a report filmed on the inside of the Al-Quds emergency room in Aleppo. It begins with the words “the facepaint of war: ash and blood” and shows baby Nour on an operating table with blood and dust covering her face. A wound on one of her arms is so bad the camera won’t even film it. Later they show Nour’s mother – her dead body is wrapped in a blanket and rests in the hallway.
Ten year-old Bader, also captured in the report, was hit by a cluster bomb whilst he ate a falafel sandwich with his friends.
When the news broke that aid trucks on the Turkish border would not be reaching Aleppo, Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and special adviser to the UN envoy, put it well when he said: “Can grown men please stop putting bureaucratic roadblocks in place to stop aid workers doing their jobs to help civilians – wounded women and children?”
Whilst Syria’s kids try their hardest to salvage a childhood out of the wreckage of war, the childish behaviour of political actors responsible for their fate has devastating, tragic consequences.
Published in Middle East Monitor