The civil war in Syria has been one of the most important news stories of 2013. While the reasons for the war are complicated and many, essentially a group of rebels are attempting to overthrow their corrupt president, named Bashar al-Assad, who in turn is doing his best to wipe out the rebels, whom he sees as “terrorists” and a threat to his rule. This power struggle has resulted in two long years’ worth of violence. In September 2013, the UN reported that between March 2011 and September 2013, the war had taken the lives of over 110,000 people.
An especially tragic reality about that number is that almost half of it represents slain civilians, and that the Syrian government has been killing them on purpose. The intentional killing of civilians has been a major intimidation tactic used in this war. The government has tortured and killed protesters and their families, left murdered bodies in the streets for public display, and remorselessly took the lives of men, women, and children alike. A particularly horrifying incident took place on August 21, 2013 when a devastating 1,429 citizens were killed by chemical weapons in an attack led by the government.
At least 400 of those people were children.
According to the UN, at least 5,800 of the overall death toll consists of children as of September 2013. Those who haven’t been killed still stand in danger of death and injury, and the basic needs of these children are going unmet on a daily basis. Many children have little-to-no access to food, water, shelter, hygienic needs, and medical care. Many children have been separated from their families.
As well as depriving them of basic needs, the war is robbing these children of their childhood. During a time in which they should be going to school, making friends, and bonding with their families, they have instead been thrust into a violent conflict that they have nothing to do with. They are being hurt and killed by a corrupt government, and abused by rebels who recruit children as soldiers and even use them as human shields. Children are sexually abused, and some of the girls are being married off to “protect them” from further sexual violence. These children have seen and endured horrifying things which will haunt them for the rest of their lives. They are facing challenges that no one should have to face.
Terrorized by both the rebels and the government, children in Syria have fewer and fewer people can turn to for protection and help. Increasing numbers of children have fled the country in search of safety. The UN estimated in September 2013 that more than two million refugees had fled the country since the war started, and at least half of that number were children. Several nearby countries have granted refugees asylum and have been working to provide access to basic needs. Many organizations have become involved in humanitarian aid efforts as well, working both inside and outside of the country to shelter, feed, clothe, and provide medical aid for refugees.
It’s difficult to know what will happen to the children of this broken nation. The war continues to rage on with no sign of stopping. With much of the rest of the world rallying together to help attend to their safety and other basic needs, perhaps some of the burden on these children has already been eased. But we need to do more.
Consider finding a to make a difference, whether it be through sharing articles online, talking to family or friends, making a charitable donation, blogging, or any other way that suits you. Our support for these children can change their lives, and that’s what activism is all about. As we lend our voices to those already advocating for the children of Syria, they will be noticed. As we reach out to them in compassion, they have a chance at a better future.
Let’s unite in behalf of the children who have had so much taken from them.
Let’s speak up.
Let’s give back.