The Children of Syria: A History of Violence

Original article: The Children of Syria: A History of Violence

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times, titled “Syrian Children Offer Glimpse of a Future of Reprisals”.

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/world/middleeast/in-syrian-conflict-children-speak-of-revenge-against-alawites.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

In it, David Kilpatrick wrote of the hundreds of Syrian children in Jordan’s Zataari camp who are forced to spend their days in tents, away from home, without the food, shelter, and education they desperately need. Mr. Kilpatrick’s thesis was that all of the Sunni children he met in this camp were overwhelmed by their hatred of President Bashar Al-Assad, his government, his supporters, and most importantly, the Alawites – members of a Shia sect of Islam which makes up ten per cent of its population. In this article, Mr. Kilpatrick repeatedly expressed his shock and concern at the apparently inherent violence and intolerance abundant (manifest) in these children’s nature. He expressed fear for the Alawite population of Syria, which, according to him, “see [Al-Assad] as their best protection against sectarian annihilation”.

Mr. Kilpatrick relates the mindset of these children in a fashion that reveals them to be almost barbaric on an intrinsic level. What he fails to address in his article, however, is the mental trauma these children have experienced at the hands of the Syrian government and its supporters, the result of which is a desire to perpetuate this violence in the form of revenge.

While the Syrian Civil War has caused extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, economy, society, and global image, it has also irrevocably damaged the collective psyche of Syrian children. Armed militias, such as the government-backed Shabiha, have perpetrated unspeakable physical violence and ethnic cleansing against defenseless women and children. Eyewitnesses have reported that such groups have adopted the “scorched earth” policy; after the Syrian military shells a protesting village or town, the Shabiha further terrorize the residing population by burning homes, firing at families, and destroying everything in their path – whether combatant or civilian, whether man or child, it makes no difference. Air raids and shelling of civilian populations continue despite the United Nations forbidding the Syrian government the use of heavy weapons against civilians.

According to reports, Syrian children as young as eight have been beaten, arrested, detained, used as human shields, tortured and raped in prisons, and killed in an effort to crush and immobilize protesting neighborhoods. Perhaps the single worst incidence of violence committed against children was at the Houla massacre, on May 25th, 2012. The United Nations reported that at least 49 children, younger than ten, had been systematically and deliberately executed in this shameful event carried out by the Syrian military and the Shabiha. Those children that survived the massacre endured armed militia men breaking into their homes and watched their entire families shot point blank, knifed, or butchered by machine guns. Even though the Syrian government denied its involvement in this incident, the UN reported clear evidence that the Assad regime was directly responsible for the attacks. A video posted online of some of the murdered children showed their wrists bound with blue ties, which means that they were tied up before being shot. Modest estimates report that of about 30,000 civilians who have died during the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, about 1,200 are children. Syrian security forces have killed, arrested and tortured children in their homes, their schools or on the streets. In many cases, security forces have targeted children and treated them with the same cruelty as adults.

Jarred and disoriented by the never-ending violence, about 1.5 million Syrians, including women and children, have been displaced within the country and tens of thousands have fled Syria for neighboring countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Some of these are the same children which Mr. Kilpatrick encountered in the Zataari camp of Jordan.

Syrian children display signs of deep emotional scarring, thoughts of revenge and murder, and getting “even with the enemy”, reactions which should not be difficult to fathom considering the history of violence against them. The purpose of this article is not to justify or promote these children’s views. It is to state that violence and hatred are not inherent; they are learned through negative experiences and societal influences. Expecting Syrian children to have an untarnished view of their world is not logical as they were not brought to refugee camps in Jordan from a utopia. They were brought to Jordan’s refugee camps from a country divided against itself, with the all too vivid images of violence and hatred still in their minds. They were taught by their authority figures that violence and hate prevail over peaceful protests and tolerance. Until and unless this young generation is given positive role models and reinforcement, empowerment through a proper education, and most importantly, security for their future, their worldview will be just as skewed and distorted as it is now and they will remain prone to regurgitating what they have been fed up till now; hatred and violence.

Christina Abraham meets with South African leaders to urge support for Syria

Read original article here:

http://www.cairchicago.org/2011/07/21/christina-abraham-meets-with-south-african-leaders-to-urge-support-for-syria/

CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights director, Christina Abraham, traveled to South Africa last week in order to persuade the government to condemn president Bashar al-Assad’s military assault on Syrian anti-government protesters. Abraham, a Syrian-American, went in her personal capacity as a part of a delegation of pro-Syrian human rights activists including human rights lawyer Yaser Tabbara and civil rights activist Iyas Maleh. Members of the delegation met with the African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-Operation, Ebrahim Ebrahim.

While South Africans are sympathetic toward the Syrian citizens who are suffering human rights abuses, the South African government is hesitant to take action against Assad’s regime for political reasons. According to Minister Ebrahim, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is reluctant to support Syrian protesters, given the country’s disapproval of NATO’s actions in Libya. The Syrian delegation clarified the difference between the two countries’ uprisings with evidence that the rallies in Syria are wholly non-violent and peaceful. Syrian citizens have not asked for military support, instead choosing civil disobedience. Abraham contends that Syrian civilians should not be made to pay the price of political differences between UNSC and South Africa.

“What is occurring in Syria unequivocally constitutes crimes against humanity and international pressure is paramount at this critical time. We live in an increasingly integrated world, and the immediate actions of non-western powers could save the lives of countless innocent civilians,” Abraham stated.

Al-Assad’s brutal regime has targeted political dissidents, killing 1,300, and injuring and detaining thousands. Human rights abuses such as torture, systematic rape, and kidnapping have also been used against Syrian civilians as a means to quell resistance. About 12,000 Syrians have fled the country as refugees. Protesters are demanding basic civil liberties such as constitutional protection for Syrian citizens which would provide food, jobs, housing, and education to the poor.