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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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