The crisis in Syria - personal blog by our CEO

29 Mar 2012

We can’t say we did not know.

Children are being tortured in Syria.  They are being shot through the knees, sexually abused in front of adult males, locked up and beaten alongside adult prisoners.  All this at the hands of the government’s own security forces who are supposed to be protecting the vulnerable. 

We can’t say these stories are not reliable.  These reports come from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay not known for loose talk.  She reports today that Syrian security forces are ‘going for the children’ in their hundreds, and targeting them for detention and torture.  A UN-funded mission of enquiry interviewed a Syrian army defector.  He defected after seeing an army officer shoot a two year old child because he’ did not want her to grow into a demonstrator’. 

The depth of this brutality confirms that the fighting in Syria has moved way beyond any concept of human rights or international norms.  And yet this these crimes are not perpetrated by an unruly mob, or militia outside of official control.  This is an army with a clear line of command up to the President himself. As Navi Pillay points out, if President Assad ordered the killings to stop, they would stop.  The army is under his command.

And things seem set to get worse.  We now have (unverified as yet) reports that rebel groups are also abusing children, recruiting and using them as child soldiers.

Mother and child in Homs, Syria
A mother and child in their shelled house in Baba Amr, Homs. Photo: Alessio Romenzi.


We can’t say we there is nothing that can be done.  We already have international systems which are supposed to kick into action when a country veers violently away from accepted norms and begins to terrorise its own people.  We have a Security Council, we have UN peacekeeping structures, we have an International Criminal Court.  So far as Syria is concerned, none of this is working.   This failure of the system is comprehensive and catastrophic.

We need to tell our leaders that events in Syria cannot be tolerated, and that the failure of the system to stop them is unacceptable.

We need to mobilise all the support we can for the children and families whose lives have been shattered by the fighting all around them.  A War Child team in Lebanon is setting up projects to help children and families crossing the border, providing safe spaces and helping children to move forward from the experiences of the past year.  This is an emergency intervention in response to an acute crisis.  But we will need to do much more in the future, over a much longer time frame, if these children are to recover the security and hope they need at the centre of their childhoods.

Rob Williams
CEO, War Child UK
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