They are poor and innocent souls. While running around and playing in joy in their homes, on their streets or in their backyards, they suddenly lose their lives when a bomb is dropped upon them.
Those who are able to survive, on the other hand, are all too often left injured and crippled due to the debris falling upon. They end up looking at the devastated bodies of their parents, their brothers and sisters and their friends in deep sorrow, confusion and despair.
In a time when they need affection, love and peace the most, they can do nothing but try to save their lives in the midst of a cruel, horrible, outrageous and bloody war. There are now armed men wandering around in the ruins which were once their homes, their neighbourhoods, their schools and playgrounds.
These people now step out from their warm and cozy homes, where they lived peacefully just a day or two ago, into a completely different world full of difficulties in which they will suffer from hunger, thirst, cold and diseases and are in need of assistance.
These are the pure and innocent people of the warring world: Children.
There are millions of these children whose lives are in disarray due to ongoing wars and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Gaza, Ukraine, Colombia, Myanmar and many African countries.
The following information in a report, dated February 2016 and entitled “Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection” of the European Council has been included under the section of “Children in Emergencies”:
“Children are among the most vulnerable victims of conflict. There are over 250mn children living in countries affected by conflict, Unicef estimates. Many children are among the civilian casualties of war.
“Boys and girls are often recruited by armed groups or criminal gangs, as combatants or intelligence sources, and they are at risk of sexual exploitation and/or trafficking. More than 37mn children are out of school in conflict-affected countries according to Unesco.”
Another source describes the catastrophe faced by the children in the warring countries: “In many conflict zones, children account for the majority of the casualties. Most die not from the weapons themselves, but from preventable diseases that aren’t prevented or treated because the health systems and infrastructure have been destroyed. More than 2.7mn children died in D R Congo as a result of the conflict there.”
Beyond doubt, Syria is now the country which suffers the most from the loss of children due to war. More than 4.6mn Syrians are refugees who’ve fled the country, and 6.6mn are internally displaced within Syria; half of them are children.
Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labour in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their daughters being molested, parents, and especially widowed mothers, may opt to arrange marriage for girls who are far too young. Between 2mn and 3mn Syrian children are not attending school.
Syrian children are one of the greatest injured parties of the air strikes, of the barrel bombs and of artillery fire launched by the regime forces that do not discriminate between schools, hospitals, playgrounds or public spaces. According to a statement by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nearly 12,000 children have been killed in the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, tens of thousands who have survived are severely injured or become disabled at a very young age.
After Syria, Colombia became the second largest country of conflict displacements, with 6.5mn people leaving their homes due to internal conflict. FARC, a well-known terrorist group in the country, forced girls between the ages of 11 and 15 who had to flee the conflict zones into prostitution.
The war in eastern Ukraine resulted in around 1,700,000 misplaced persons; 250,000 of them are children. The war in the Donetsk Basin has become the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s.
The child soldiers recruited at a young age and forced to fight in these war, is another problem. These children are trained to fight in the front line, to serve as human shields or suicide bombers.
For instance, a total of three thousand children, the youngest of whom are still only eight or nine years old, are now given military and ideological training in the PKK’s terrorist camps. The PKK abducted and forced more than 2,500 children between 12-17 to forcefully join their terrorist organisation without the consent of their families in the past several years during the “Resolution Process” period in Turkey.
The reports of Human Rights Watch indicated that the PYD, the Syrian Branch of the PKK, even recruits 12 year-old children.
The girls taken forcefully by the terrorist organisation are raped and made pregnant by the members of the organisation. Even when they are able to flee and return their homes, many of them are ostracised by their families and they are captured and taken back by the organisation or murdered in so-called “honour killings” by their families.
The children of war not only suffer from physical injuries but also from a variety of psychological disorders, perhaps mostly notably PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). In the midst of violence, uncertainty and the threat of death, these children become pessimistic, anxious, depressed, introverted, and sometimes even aggressive and rebellious.
In many cases, these feelings evolve into the symptoms of permanent trauma. For the children who take shelter in a refugee camp in the best case scenario, there is nothing but an environment full of contempt, humiliation and insult.
A group of children living in a refugee camp in Lebanon wrote an open letter to the world, indicating the suffering that they have experienced: “We are children from Syria; some of us came to Lebanon two years ago, and others came three or four years ago. We suffer from many problems; one of them is being beaten by others. For example, in the school, we are beaten by Lebanese students. In the streets, we are beaten as well and some people make fun of us. A friend and his brother are sometimes beaten by the owner of the house where they live.”
These children are not aware that they suffer such misery because of the pride, stubbornness, fanaticism, interests and politics of ambition inherent to some governments. Indeed, they do not know that they are the “collateral damage” of the horrific air operations and outrageous drone attacks that are justified in the name of a fallacy called “The War against Terrorism.”
When told that “they are the ignored losses of the rent-seeking international arms companies”, they would not have the slightest idea about it.
These pure, innocent and decent children do not deserve to be the casualties of cruel wars. We, as people with an awareness of our moral responsibility, have been doing our best and will continue to do our best in order to end these wars.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Gulf Times & Harakah: