Information and news about syria

girls education in SyriaThe ongoing civil war in Syria has had a serious impact on many aspects of Syrian life. Syria once contained a highly educated middle class, but since the start of the civil war, this has significantly declined. Women have experienced a large reduction in their access to education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Syria

  1. During the 1990s, primary and preparatory schools were built to combat low literacy rates in Syria. Parents were legally required to send their daughters to school. This created equal enrollment ratios in primary schools for male and female students that reached around 92.61 percent enrollment in 1996. The war in Syria has drastically decreased opportunities for children to attend school, dropping the overall enrollment rate in secondary schools down to 44 percent by 2013 from 72 percent just four years before in 2009.
  2. Conflict in Syria has caused countless families to flee from rural areas to neighborhoods of 1070, Tishreen and Al-Riyadeh. These are areas where urban planning has worked to create apartments. A need for more classrooms arose due to a population increase and people taking refuge within these neighborhoods. UNICEF built a new 1070 school in 2013, the only girls’ intermediary school in the neighborhood, providing safety for students from the conflict in their neighborhood. However, in 2016, residents of the neighborhood fled due to an increase in mortars and bombardment. The school was abandoned and destroyed. This is common in Syria, where one in every three schools are damaged or destroyed, severely limiting student’s access to educational facilities.
  3. With 2 million children out of school due to the war, the amount of young displaced Syrian girls who get married before 18 has reached 41 percent. Education limits girls’ vulnerability to early marriage. However, with limited opportunities for girls to attend school, they have no way to learn the skills and obtain knowledge to advocate for themselves against child marriage.
  4. Regions controlled by Islamic extremists follow a curriculum outlined in “Women of the Islamic State”, a manifesto defining the role of women in society. This curriculum discourages women from attending institutions of higher education. It also supports a domestic-based education and marriage by the age of 16.
  5. Under the guise of an educational opportunity, young girls are often recruited for armed conflict. In 2017, 89 girls were recruited and used for armed conflict. Recruitment removes children form educational opportunities and puts them at severe risk.
  6. The Syrian Government has also worked to diminish the role of female teachers in the education system by denying the salaries for women teachers located in conflict zones. This often eliminates the primary income of a family and disproportionately affects young girls working towards achieving an education. Without female role models as teachers, young girls are often displaced from the education system, putting them at a higher risk for sexual and economic exploitation.
  7. Efforts made by the Malala Fund are working to provide technology that does not require internet access for Syrian girls to continue their education after seeking refuge in surrounding countries. Specifically, the Malala Fund paired up with Fadi Hallisso, the CEO of Basmeh and Zeitooneh, a Lebanese organization that works with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The organization works to expand educational opportunities for Syrian refugee girls in those regions. The Malala Fund and Basmeh and Zeitooneh have worked to create accelerated learning programs and cultural centers to assist girls in getting up to speed on the educational standards of the local schools.
  8. U.N. Women started working to increase skills building and educational opportunities for girls displaced by the conflict in Syria. Sixteen-thousand female Syrian refugees benefit annually from the Oasis centers created by U.N. Women. These centers offer 400 cash-for-work opportunities as well as skill-building training to improve their opportunity for increased incomes. Syrian girls are also benefiting from the “SADA Women-only Centre,” which teaches technological skills, provides language courses, offers counseling services and connects women with jobs. U.N. Women is also working to build advocacy and leadership by Syrian women. A meeting was convened in June 2018 where 200 Syrian women convened to discuss the advancement of women’s rights in Syria.
  9. UNICEF started working to increase educational access for children in Syria, providing more than two million children with textbooks, stationery and school bags. UNICEF has also provided almost 80 thousand children with informal education opportunities. UNICEF’s focus on educational access for young Syrian children reaches across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with the goal of providing equitable educational access to 1.2 million children.
  10. Countries with high numbers of Syrian refugees are actively working to lift restrictions for school enrollment that disproportionately affect young Syrian girls and implement systems that are accessible for Syrian refugees. In 2014, Jordan recently lifted the requirement for Syrian refugee children to hold a residency card to attend their schools. Syria also introduced a temporary education system that offers Syrian students an education taught in Arabic.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria present the lack of access and safety for Syrian girls attempting to obtain an education in Syria and in refugee areas. Many organizations are working to improve the educational inequality for Syrian girls. These efforts are improving educational conditions; however, as the conflict in Syria persists, there is still a necessity for progress towards equitable education in Syria.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

War in SyriaSyria’s civil war has been raging on for eight years now. The conflict has created a huge population of 5.7 million refugees in critical need of humanitarian assistance. The resulting humanitarian crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in recent years. Several organizations are on the ground trying to provide humanitarian solutions for the victims of war in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces

Recently, the Islamic State (IS) made its last stand to desperately hold on to the last tiny piece of territory it has, a small town in Eastern Syria called Baghouz. In September 2018, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) initiated what they hope to be their final military push to reclaim IS turf. The operation has been excruciatingly slow and deadly.

Civilians are struggling to slip out of the militants’ grasp and into the global humanitarian community. The SDF is working to help extract the civilian families out of the last holdout of IS fighters. It is believed that several thousand people are still huddled together in the final IS enclave. The people pouring out of Baghouz to seek shelter from the war in Syria pose a huge humanitarian challenge.

Almost 40,000 civilians have already left the diminishing IS territory, but the flow was severely interrupted when IS fighters closed off all exit roads. IS extremists were obstructing civilians from escaping, using them as human shields from airstrikes. Now, small groups of refugees sneak out into humanitarian corridors with the help of smugglers. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a humanitarian organization working to help refugees escape the war in Syria and to monitor refugee movements.

Save the Children

Children escaping from the war in Syria are especially in need of humanitarian assistance. Beyond food, health services, education and other basic needs, child refugees require mental health services. Syrian refugee children consistently show signs of psychological trauma. Save the Children is striving to provide necessary services for Syrian child refugees. Among other things, they are working to establish recreational spaces and centers for unaccompanied children in the refugee camps. They provide mental health and socializing services in a safe environment for war-weary children.

According to Save the Children, the war in Syria has made it the most dangerous country in the world for children. In Syria, 5.3 million children need humanitarian assistance. Children are not only the victims of violence but also the targets of abduction and recruitment into armed groups. In three refugee camps in North-East Syria, there are more than 2,500 children from at least 30 different countries.

There is much work to be done, and Save the Children emphasizes that the organization is in dire need of more support. Extra funding is necessary to provide case management and protective services for more children. Foreign children need their countries of origin to facilitate repatriation. Save the Children urges the international community to help preserve family unity and aid those returning to their countries of origin from the war in Syria.

Other Humanitarian Organizations

Humanitarian organizations help 700,000 people each month in North Eastern Syria. In March, Brussels will host a pledging conference to raise more funds for humanitarian aid to Syria. In 2018, various nations collectively raised $5 billion for Syrian relief. In Syria, the United Nations aid feeds around 3 million people each month, and U.N. medical assistance has treated nearly 3 million patients.

The U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been cooperating to transport and deliver large amounts of aid to refugee camps in Syria. On February 6, the largest of such shipments arrived in Rukban, a refugee settlement in the demilitarized zone established by the major warring parties. The majority of Rukban’s inhabitants are women and children. The convoy included 133 trucks loaded with food, health and nutritional supplies, hygiene materials, education items, children’s recreational kits and vaccines. The aid came at a critical time to help save the lives of at least 40,000 people who live in the settlement.

The Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) is another humanitarian organization working to enhance the lives of marginalized Syrians. They improve and provide schools, community centers, safe spaces, elder care facilities and other communal programs. Since the beginning of the conflict, they have been able to increase the scope of their assistance in both geographical range and by the number of people helped. Their programs have benefitted more than 1 million people.

There are organizations doing everything they can to help Syrian refugees survive and return to a peaceful life. Thanks to the efforts of thses humanitarian organizations, refugees, who have been surrounded by airstrikes and extremist violence, have shelter against the harsh Syrian winter.

Peter Mayer

Photo: Flickr

the holdout province
While the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief following the September agreement made by Turkey and Russia – thus halting the advance of troops, the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has yet to exhale. It remains one of the last rebel strongholds in the conflict. As world leaders work to decide Idlib’s political future, many workers toil to provide aid in the holdout province.

Aid in the Holdout Province

Presently the area known as the holdout province is home to three million people. There are around 1.5 million people living in the area who are internally displaced, having fled to escape previous rounds of fighting. This influx of people has stretched already scarce resources (housing, food and medicine) even more thinly.

The United Nations has been doing its part to help, both inside and out of the diplomatic arena. By running cross-border operations from Turkey, the U.N. has organized a convoy of more than 1,000 trucks to deliver winter supplies, such as blankets, coats, boats, gas stoves and plastic shelter materials. As winter approaches and nightly temperatures become cold – especially for those without proper housing – many will be glad to have the extra warmth.

Through its food assistance arm (The World Food Program or WFP), the U.N. is also doing what it can to give food aid in the holdout province. In October alone, the WFP was able to feed 3.2 million people. Food deliveries were able to reach 14 Syrian provinces, including the more isolated areas of Syria like the Aleppo, rural Damascus and Ar-Raqqa governorates, which fed almost 291,865. Specific packages addressing malnutrition and nutrient deficiency were provided to more than 100,000 children – reaching many in the holdout governorate.

Medical and Psychological Care

Medical attention is difficult to find in any conflict; keeping facilities well supplied and away from the fighting can be an impossible task. In September, four hospitals were damaged in attacks. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is combating this shortage, supporting ten health facilities, as well as two mobile clinics and four emergency response teams. The teams deliver kits stocked with clothing and sanitary supplies. Through the IRC’s efforts, 860,000 patients were treated in 2017, with 80,000 people being treated every month.

Still, while it’s easy to focus on the physical (visible) needs of survivors, the emotional needs of children often – out of necessity – go overlooked. However, the IRC operates a safe space that gives psychosocial support to children as well as providing the children with a place to learn and play. In the future, the IRC plans to distribute kits containing games, books and learning aid through this center. As a consequence of war, children are exposed to the harsh realities of life in a conflict zone; they are denied an education that would enable them to succeed as adults in peacetime. Even small learning toys and aids make a significant difference in light of the alternatives.

Current Negotiations

With the conflict stretching into its eighth year, recent peace talks have been referred to as “a glimmer of hope” by high ranking U.N. members. Syrian representatives have agreed to send 50 representatives to the negotiating committee, and have agreed to speak with 50 representatives from the opposition. Unfortunately, they have refused to ratify any representatives of Syrian civil society in the negotiations. Only fair, fully-represented and public negotiations can truly end the suffering in the country. Until then, aid in the holdout province must continue in order to help these refugees survive.

– John Glade
Photo: Flickr

Education in Syria
Just seven years ago, Syria was a regional leader in basic education. Unfortunately, education is one of the many social structures that has suffered amidst the uprising of civil conflict. In 2011, antigovernment protests broke out in Syria in response to the authoritarian rhetoric of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government used violence to suppress demonstrations, and over time, the conflict turned into a civil war. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country, but those who remain are struggling to obtain an education in Syria.

The State of Education in Syria

Many civilians were left in the middle of war-torn chaos where day-to-day activities, like going to school, have become life-threatening and sometimes impossible. Attendance rates have taken a dive since 2011. Today, nearly a decade worth of progress in education in Syria has been reversed due to the conflict. Before the outbreak of war and violence, an estimated 97 percent of primary school-aged children were attending school daily. In 2018, that rate had fallen to 30 percent in the areas hit hardest by the conflict like Aleppo and Idlib.

Many schools have been destroyed by airstrikes and, in regions dominated by ISIS, teachers are often victims of violent attacks if they don’t conform to the curriculum the terrorists want to be taught. And yet, some have managed their way around the destructive turmoil. To continue education in Syria, teachers have set up makeshift classrooms in caves and abandoned poultry farms. Despite the limited space and decreased lighting, caves have proven to be one of the best places for classrooms since underground spaces are safer from airstrikes.

Teachers Making a Difference

Other teachers like Abudlkafi Alhamdo, an English literature professor in Syria, set up classrooms in vacated apartment buildings. Alhamdo remained in the battle-torn country despite his own thoughts of leaving to protect his wife and children. Amidst the ongoing violence between Assad’s regime and the protestors, students would come to their English teacher without food, shelter, water or their families and seek refuge.

Alhamdo recalled the first pupil who came to him after the attacks on his city, Aleppo. He asked the tardy student what kept him, and the boy responded by informing him that his father and sister had been killed the previous day. Alhamdo offered comfort and care to the student, and after that others came along, affected by the war-caused impoverished conditions.

Education is the Key to Ending Conflict

Alhamdo did more than provide his students with food and water. He continued to teach his pupils regardless of what the conditions were outside the classroom because he believes that, without education, the children may be subjected to the violence of Assad’s regime. The English literature teacher believes that education, in any country, can pull the people out of violence and instead create innovators, leaders and critical thinkers who can combat world issues with peaceful strategies.

UNICEF shares Alhamdo’s belief in the importance of education in Syria. The organization has responded to the education crisis throughout the region placing 120 prefabricated classrooms in cities like Homs and Aleppo. UNICEF has also sent 765,000 book bags containing school supplies across the country, hoping to bring back a glimpse of normalcy for Syrian children.

Efforts made by the teachers who have stayed behind to care for their students and groups like UNICEF are one way that education in Syria has survived. But, the country will not be able to achieve its previous educational status until the conflict is finally resolved and the war is over.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Lebanon

While the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East continue to make international headlines, the refugee crisis caused by these conflicts has slowly faded from the public eye. Many countries around the world are now focused on more immediate internal problems. For Syria’s neighboring countries, though, the refugee crisis continues to be an impactful part of their society.

Lebanon is one of these countries. This country shares most of its land border with Syria, and this made it an obvious place for war refugees to flee. The government has allowed many to remain in the country. Estimates say that there are still more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is only part of the country’s refugee population.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon today is complicated, to say at least. While they are allowed to stay within the country, a combination of unfriendly government policies and heavily-strained infrastructure mean that few can maintain a high quality of life. Residency laws are difficult to navigate, leaving many fearful of arrest and open to exploitation.

Good work is hard to find, and 71 percent of Syrian refugees live below the country’s poverty line. This lack of financial resources helps explain why more than 200,000 refugee children were kept out of school in 2016. This education gap will only lead to more economic vulnerability in the long term.

Compounding these difficulties is the legitimate strain that 1.5 million refugees put on a Lebanese population that totals only six million. The Lebanese residents of some host communities are outnumbered by refugees. Since the start of the crisis, government spending and debt have risen while GDP has dropped and expenses have mounted. The economic troubles have heightened perception of refugees as a drain on Lebanese society and many want them to return to Syria. Of course, many Syrians would like to return home as well, especially given the conditions in Lebanon.

With the war continuing to progress, though, the United Nations does not recommend that refugees return. President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government continue to make returning difficult even for those that would like to take the chance. Beyond the obvious physical danger of the ongoing conflict, a strict military draft and the threat of property seizure for the many refugees who are left without formal documentation for their homes are harsh deterrents for many people.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

It’s important to note that Syrians are not the only refugees in Lebanon. A population of around 270,000 Palestinians has settled in a few dozen U.N. camps around the country. Many of these people (or even parents of these people) have been in Lebanon since the Palestinian war in 1948. Today, these camps are essentially considered permanent settlements, and their longevity is part of what has inspired a more aggressive governmental push to ensure that Syrian refugees are only settled temporarily.

Palestinians in Lebanon have always been considered a separate legal class, with restricted access to certain public facilities, educational paths, careers and job opportunities. Many are forced to take low-paying, informal jobs.

The Syrian crisis has made life even more difficult for them, as both refugee groups must now compete for the same undesirable jobs. In 2015, 23 percent of the Palestinian population in Lebanon was unemployed. That number was only 8 percent before the crisis. Conditions are even worse for the 33,000 Palestinians who were living in Syria and have since become refugees in Lebanon as 93 percent of these people are reliant on U.N. aid as their primary source of livelihood.

International Aid for Refugees

While international news has largely moved on from the crisis, international aid continues to be involved in Lebanon and other similarly-strained countries. Thousands of families receive aid from U.N. groups, nonprofit organizations and other groups like the World Bank, to supplement governmental support and their own limited personal resources.

These sources of aid can be effective at reducing poverty, but many have been geared at short term solutions so far. As budgets and international aid dry up, support for the refugees in Lebanon will likely be most effective if it focuses on the long term effects. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are hoping to improve living conditions by building new homes and renovating old buildings as well as water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR also has plans to shore up Lebanese infrastructure as part of the international effort.

However, with the instability in the region and the ongoing pressure to return to Syria and Palestine mounting, permanent solutions may not be a winning political idea in Lebanon. Time will tell, but in the meantime, it is vitally important not to forget the millions of people- Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and others- who are still impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis.

– Josh Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

Displacement in Syria
Syria is a country located in the Middle East that has been in constant warfare since 2011, leaving millions of people displaced.

Today, there are several nonprofit organizations that are directly affecting the lives of people that are affected by war and, as a result, displacement in Syria.

United Nations Work on Displacement in Syria

The United Nations estimates that 6.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria. Refugees considered, there are approximately 12 million people in and bordering Syria that need humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with other United Nations humanitarian and development agencies to appeal for $8 billion in new funding to help millions of refugees.

The first aspect of the appeal is the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for 2018-2019.

The plan will give $4.4 billion in support for over 5 million refugees in neighboring countries and close to 4 million people in the communities hosting these refugees.

The second aspect is known as the 2017 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and seeks to provide $3.2 billion in humanitarian support and protection to over 13 million people in Syria.

The Case of Idlib

Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, has been hit with bombings and airstrikes in the past few months. It is estimated that over 1 million people living in Idlib were previously displaced from elsewhere in the country and citizens still face uncertainty with constant violence.

Many citizens remain trapped in the city, with main exits of the city closed. It is estimated that 30,000 people from the city have fled the country since the violence began. More than 2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance even before the violence began.

Displacement in Syria and Water Issues

Overpopulated makeshift settlements in Syria are often reliant on unsafe drinking water.

It is estimated that 35 percent of the population rely on sources of drinking water that is not safe. Areas with the largest refugee populations have faced drastically low levels of water.

Many refugees rely on less than 22 liters of water a day, less than one-tenth of what the average citizen of United States uses.

The World Health Organization has tested and treated 650 unsafe sources of drinking water in 2017 alone. The production of water storage tanks and groundwater wells have provided water to over 200,000 people.

The WHO has developed a disease reporting system that monitors the spread of infectious diseases. Around 1670 sentinel sites have been built across the country. This system allows professionals to rapidly detect and respond to typhoid fever, measles and polio in Syria and in neighboring countries.

The WHO is also supporting the integration of mental health services into health care and community centers in Syria. More than 400 health care facilities have been built and are proving mental health assistance.

The WHO also started the Mental Health Gap Action Programme in northwest Syria in 2017. The program has trained more than 250 Syrian health care workers and mental health professionals.

Displacement in Syria is the direct consequence of the constant violence present in the country since 2011. Due to the unsafe situation in the country, people are moving from their homes in search of a safer environment in the country or abroad. Organizations such as WHO and UNHCR are providing important humanitarian support to those in need.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Syria
Since the Arab Spring that occurred in March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a civil war.

In the preceding seven years, the living conditions for the people of Syria have deteriorated significantly and thrown almost 80 percent of the country’s population into poverty.

In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in a war-torn country of Syria are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Syria

  1. The number one threat to the people living in Syria is the high level of violence. In a complex civil war that involves many different participants, civilians have been caught in the crossfire. Children often fare the worst, facing violence, exploitation and recruitment, death and injury. The people of Syria endure bombings, extrajudicial killings, detainment, torture and chemical attacks that have led to the deaths of over 500,000 people. Some improvement has been made, however, by providing more investigative mechanisms like the work of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) to document and help prevent the violence and hold people accountable.
  2. The war has forced more than 6.6 million people to become internally displaced, leaving their homes in order to escape violence. Oftentimes, Syrians take shelter in informal settlements in abandoned buildings with extended family members. UNHCR Shelter already has over 400,000 displaced people and is still working to provide official collective shelters and emergency shelter interventions in order to reduce suffering and decrease displacement.
  3. In Syria, 10.5 million people have insecure access to food or are unable to meet their basic food needs. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, such as the large numbers of displaced people, damaged or detained agriculture land and severely high food prices. The United States alone has provided over 2.7 billion dollars in emergency food assistance to Syria since 2012, which has helped to provide gravely needed aid.
  4. Lack of water has been a major issue throughout the Syrian civil war as 14.6 million people need access to clean water. All sides of the war have held water hostage, but it has left many civilians as collateral damage. Due to damaged infrastructure, there is severely limited running water, forcing Syrians to be almost entirely dependent on foreign aid.
  5. Due to the conflict, Syria’s once priority on education has fallen by the wayside. One in four schools are no longer operational, and over two million children are not in school. However, strides of progress have been made. Five million children are currently attending schools in Syria. Through donors and brave teachers, these children have been able to receive schooling, though more work needs to be done.
  6. The trauma of war is pervasive and can severely impact mental health. In Idlib alone, 90 percent of the population suffers from depression due to their difficult living conditions. For children, being out of school can impact their mental health. In combating this, the No Lost Generation put forward by UNICEF helps 4.2 million children, providing psychosocial support and helping them return to normalcy by getting them back into schools.
  7. The major difficulty in maintaining the physical well-being and health of Syrians is the inability of health workers to access people in need. Over 200 hospitals have been targeted, making Syria one of the most dangerous places in the world for health care workers. More than 11 million people are in need of health assistance. The WHO has managed to deliver 14 million treatments, showing how, despite the danger, many international health workers have not given up.
  8. Discrimination has also played a role in the living conditions in Syria. It is most significant for the ISIS-held areas, where at least 25 men have been murdered after being accused of homosexuality. Women are severely restricted, mostly by their freedom of movement. The religious minority of Yazidi girls have also been tortured or sexually enslaved.
  9. Like many other countries across the world who endure poverty, priorities have to be shifted and culture is lost along the way. ISIS has also specifically targeted six sites of cultural heritage, damaging and endangering many parts of history. This is considered to be a war crime and has led to the organization ALIPH raising millions of dollars to protect these sites.
  10. The Assad regime continues to be one of the main perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses against the Syrian people. Over 12,000 people have been killed while being detained by the government. In coordination with Russia, the Syrian government has also used internationally banned tactics such as cluster munitions, incendiary weapons and chemical weapons. For those living in Syria, the government poses a threat, and the hope for change is an end to the war and the installation of a new democratic government.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in Syria are shown to be some of the harshest in the world. Embroiled in a civil war that has lasted for seven years, millions have been thrown into poverty, face violence and lack access to basic needs required for life.

However, the people of Syria are not alone. International groups have not given up on the people in Syria and continue to offer aid and assistance to all those in need, despite the danger and risk involved.

Because that is what it will take to end the immense human suffering borne out of war- courage and a willingness to never give up.

– Brenna Boytim
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Child Soldiers in Syria
During the Syrian conflict, children, even younger than 10, have been recruited into armed groups. These children are inadequately protected by the government and many are recruited into government and terrorist organizations. The majority of them are untrained but are placed in combat situations. Years of violence and despair have plagued the lives of these children. In the text below, the top 10 facts about child soldiers in Syria are presented.

 Top 10 Facts about Child Soldiers in Syria

  1. In a survey conducted by Save the Children, 59 percent of adults interviewed in Syria claimed to know children or young adults in Syria that had been recruited into armed groups. As of 2017, 910 children have been killed and 361 have been maimed during the Syrian conflict. Child soldiers in Syria have been used as human shields, suicide bombers, front-line soldiers and as guards at checkpoints.
  2. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of armed children in the Syrian civil war verified by the U.N. was 851, more than double from the year before. The incentives used to encourage children into the army are salaries, ideologies and family or community influence. Even girls join these armed groups and seek to escape either abuse or arranged marriages.
  3. Child soldiers are encouraged to join armed groups due to poverty or being consistently targeted by specific groups. Some child soldiers in Syria have been reported to receive salaries of up to $400 a month. The families targeted by recruiters are typically poor and recruiters have been known to promise to pay and clothe children for their enlistment.
  4. In Syria, ISIS had kidnapped 463 children in 2015. ISIS usually targets ethnic minority groups and women and children in their abductions. In 2015, it was believed that this organization has 3,500 slaves that were made up mostly of women and children.
  5. The U.N. verified 29 child soldiers in Syria associated with government forces. Although the government is not supposed to conscript child soldiers, they do sit anyway. The children in Syria have little protection from the government against armed groups recruitment.
  6. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have recently issued an order that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to be enlisted into the army. This order requires commanders to verify the ages of soldiers and then take those under the age limit to authorities to end their enlistment. It also calls for punishments for commanders who refuse to comply with this order.
  7. Around 60 percent of the United Nation’s verified cases of child soldiers in Syria were associated with the Free Syrian Army. The Free Syrian Army is a rebel group formed by army deserters in Turkey. Several other armed groups across Syria have adopted their banner. A child interviewed by the Human Rights Watch stated that he joined the Free Syrian Army after he was previously tortured by the government forces.
  8. Children are actively being detained in Syria due to their perceived alliance with a specific group or organization. The U.N. verified that government forces had arrested 12 boys in 2016. Anti-government forces imprison children that are believed to support the government.
  9. There are 292,000 children trapped in besieged areas. The affected areas include Damascus, Idlib, Deir Az Zor and Homs. These areas have been besieged by both rebel and pro-government forces.
  10. Recently, the United Nations appealed to the U.S. for $8 billion of aid for Syria. The first part of the proposal aims to help refugees and the second part aims to provide humanitarian aid and protection for the 13.5 million people inside Syria.

These top 10 facts about child soldiers in Syria demonstrate the desperate crisis children in this country face every day. These are children who desperately need support in a fractured world, especially child soldiers that are affected most by the violence.

Investing in the future of this region and its children could have a large impact. Rehabilitation programs for child soldiers could help them reintegrate into society and into a normal life. These children could be placed into care centers or mandatory rehab programs to deal with the psychological and physical damage they have suffered.

Programs like these have worked in other conflicts and war situations and could help Syrian child soldiers find a way out of the violence they face every day and help them re-establish relationships with their families and communities as well.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in the Syrian Arab RepublicAccording to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are undernourished worldwide. Of these 815 million individuals, 6.5 million (33 percent of the population) are facing food insecurity or lack reliable access to nutritious food in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Since 2011, the Syrian Civil War has caused the country’s starvation rate to double. Although various organizations continue to provide food and aid, militias prevent organizations from reaching those who need it most. Other chief contributors resulting from the war include increasing poverty rates and population displacement. To date, over four million people with over 2 million of them being children, are unable to purchase a sufficient supply of food.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic

  1. Various military actors in the war have purposefully starved Syrian civilians. The effects have disproportionately harmed vulnerable individuals such as children, the elderly and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Since militias have been using aid as a political tool, aid workers find it difficult to provide food for the hungry in conflict zones. In March 2018, Human Appeal, a humanitarian aid charity in the U.K., called on the International Criminal Court to start prosecuting those who deliberately starve civilians.
  2. A lack of security, employment opportunities and basic services have led to the world’s largest displacement crisis. In Syria, 6.3 million people are displaced while 5.3 million have taken refuge in nearby countries. While over 720,000 Syrians have returned, new displacements have arisen in northeast Syria, Hama, Aleppo and Idleb Governorates.
  3. The recent conflict in Syria has damaged the economy and pushed almost seven million people into poverty, according to the U.N. Of Syria’s population, 82.5 percent is below the poverty line while 50 percent is unemployed. Additionally, 40 percent of families report they do not have enough food.
  4. When food does become available, Syrians put themselves at risk when attempting to obtain it. According to the Save the Children Federation, there are various reports of individuals being targeted while shopping at supermarkets and local markets. Amjad, a Syrian resident, said: “The shelling happened every day…it was not always day or night, you never knew when it would happen. The clashes between the armed groups would happen all the time, too; shooting everywhere. It was impossible to go and find food.”
  5. Most food shortages have been caused by a significant increase in food prices. The price of some of the most essential food items has increased by 100 percent in recent years. Many families have become impoverished by conflict and are unable to cope. An estimated 50 percent of households have reduced their intake of daily meals and 30 percent of adults are prioritizing children by limiting their consumption.
  6. Breastfeeding mothers and babies who are not breastfed in Syria do not receive the support necessary to ensure proper nourishment for development. This puts Syrian children at risk of dying from a lack of sufficient nutrients, developing malnutrition and having limited access to medical professionals who are familiar with treating malnutrition. Without nutrients, children are also at a higher risk of getting a disease, especially with Syria’s shortage of clean water.
  7. Prior to the conflict, agriculture was the main sector of Syria’s economy and contributed 18 percent to the GDP. Since the start of the war, agriculture and infrastructure have collapsed, costing over $16 billion in damages and loss. Despite an increase in wheat production and access to farmland, crops fail to sell due to high costs.
  8. The increase in violence, road closures and proliferation checkpoints has hindered humanitarian organizations’ ability to reach various parts of the country. This limits the United Nations to only providing aid in areas not impacted by conflict. Due to these restrictions, only half of 2.4 million civilians in Aleppo, Syria received humanitarian aid in 2013. Additionally, territories controlled by the government do not always allow aid workers to access civilians despite the need.
  9. Rise Against Hunger is an organization that utilizes volunteers in their mission to end world hunger. Volunteers package numerous meals that are packed with nutrients to nourish the world’s hungry. Rise Against Hunger has served and provided the Syrian Arab Republic with almost 550,000 meals.
  10. The World Food Programme (WFP) is responding to Syria’s food crisis in various ways. WFP provides over four million people with monthly food rations and over 900 schools in Syria with nutritious snacks. WFP also offers nutrition support to mothers, breastfeeding mothers and children.

The developing country of the Syrian Arab Republic is still enduring food insecurity and a lack of humanitarian aid. The majority of the population is facing various consequences of the Syrian Civil War, making it difficult to improve their livelihoods and find food. These top 10 facts about hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic highlight the need for crucial humanitarian aid.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in SyriaOn the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian nations, Syria has long been at the crossroads of Middle Eastern and Western commerce and culture.

In March 2011, during the Arab Spring, pro-democracy protests erupted in the city of Deraa. The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. The government attempted to crush the dissent with force, but merely fueled protesters’ resolve. As the conflict escalated, more pro-government and rebel factions have emerged and a number of outside parties, including Lebanon, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the U.S., the U.K. and France involved themselves as well.

Throughout this conflict, innumerable Syrians have suffered. Human rights abuses have been perpetrated on all sides. This article will discuss the top 10 facts about human rights in Syria that are mostly related to the current situation and the war in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights

  1. The Syrian government has launched numerous airstrikes on civilians in opposition-held areas. With support from Iran and Russia, Syria’s government has conducted attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. At the end of 2016, in their operation to regain rebel-held land in Aleppo, the Russian-Syrian military coalition conducted airstrikes on serval medical facilities, killing 446 civilians, including 91 children.
  2. The government has employed starvation as a war tactic and has unlawfully restricted access for humanitarian aid. The U.N. estimated that around 540,000 persons were trapped in besieged areas as of June 2017. The deteriorating humanitarian conditions have forced residents into surrendering to brokered ceasefires and evacuation deals with the government. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry and Amnesty International found that some of these evacuations were unlawful.
  3. Hay’et Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), the dominant rebel group in Idlib province, continues to commit human right violationsIn response to civilian protests in Idlib province, HTS group members shot at protestors, killing and injuring civilians. HTS has also interfered with humanitarian aid delivery in the province and targeted religious minorities with car bombings. In March 2017, HTS took responsibility for two explosions in the Bab al-Saghir cemetery. The attacks killed 44 civilians and injured 120.
  4. Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS increased. A local group, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, reported 2,286 civilian deaths at the hands of U.S.-backed airstrikes up to September 2017. These strikes raise concerns that the U.S.-led coalition did not take precautions to avoid and minimize Syrian civilian casualties.
  5. The Syrian government continues to use chemical weapons. Nerve agents have been deployed throughout opposition strongholds in Syria. In September 2017, the U.N.-appointed Commission of Inquiry’s report concluded that “the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children.” Human Rights Watch also documented government helicopters dropping chlorine on at least eight occasions in an attempt to recapture Aleppo.
  6. Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, torture, and enforced disappearances continue. In 2017, the Syrian Network for Human Rights documented more than 4,252 individual unwarranted arrests. As of August 2017, over 80,000 individuals were “disappeared.”
  7. Abuses of civilians by ISIS continue. During its defense of Raqqa and other towns, ISIS used civilians as human shields and used internationally banned landmines. The U.N.-OPCW’s (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) joint investigation found that ISIS has used chemical weapons, sulfur mustard gas specifically, against civilians.
  8. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (or PYD) has detained and harassed members of the political opposition and activists. Human Rights Watch received reports of torture and ill-treatment in facilities controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the majority of which are members of the PYD.
  9. More than 6.9 million people have been displaced. Women and children account for 75 percent of the refugee population. The neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have sought to curb the massive inflow of refugees through unlawful administrative, legal and physical barriers. Incidents of Turkish border guards shooting at Syrians and smugglers trying to cross the border continue, including the fatal shooting of a 3-year-old in 2017. In the first five months of 2017, the Jordanian government deported around 400 Syrian refugees per month.
  10. The true scope of the war’s death toll is unknown and is still growing. As the Syrian war drags many international monitoring groups ceased counting the dead. The U.N., which regularly released death toll reports during the war’s first years, gave its last estimate in 2016 and stated that it had become impossible to verify how many people have died, but at least 400,000 people were killed by that moment. In March 2018, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that at least 511,000 people have been killed in the war since March 2011.

These top 10 facts about human rights in Syria hopes to make evident the suffering of millions of people and inspire additional diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to stop the war. The U.S. has the important diplomatic part to play in the support of the Syrian people and it cannot supplant that role with military force. Military involvement cannot replace diplomacy. The people of Syria are in dire need of humanitarian aid. Politics and military force alone will not build the trust needed to get that aid to the country’s besieged populace.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr