Syria, child soldiers, and child rape

Originally posted on June 26, 2013

Much of the news in the media concerning Syria focuses on the deteriorating situation. We hear about the Russian involvement, the Syrian military’s power, and the use of chemical weapons. Yet missing from the coverage is the impact this has had on the Syrian people. A recent news report offer a view of that, one that people might not expect:

Syrian troops and rebels are recruiting children to fight in the country’s civil war and some have been tortured by government forces for having links to the opposition, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report on Wednesday.

The report issued after Ban’s special envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, visited Syria in December said thousands of children have been killed in the violence, “while thousands more have seen family members killed or injured.”

The report also said children are recruited, killed, maimed or raped by government forces and armed groups in Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen, as well as by armed groups in Mali, Colombia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Iraq and the Central African Republic.

According to the report, the majority of the children are boys. In Syria, the torture and rapes are carried out by Syrian officials and military forces:

“Child detainees, largely boys and as young as 14 years old, suffered similar or identical methods of tortures as adults, including electric shock, beatings, stress positions and threats and acts of sexual torture,” [the report] said.

Another article mentions the rate of sexual violence that happens to be men and boys in Syria:

Men are more than just witnesses to sexualized violence in Syria; they are experiencing it directly as well. Forty-three of the reports on our map – about 20 percent — involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56. Nearly half of the reports about men involve rape, while a quarter detail sexualized violence without penetration, such as shocks to the genitals. Sixteen percent of the men who have been raped in our reports were allegedly violated by multiple attackers.

This article also states that most of the violence is committed by government forces.

None of this violence should come as a surprise. Oppressive governments are historically known for their use of torture and sexual violence. What comes as a surprise is that this administration has not stepped in after two years. When the conflict began, the Obama administration did not get involved. President Obama did not want another war, and there was a good chance things would reach that point.

Yet by doing nothing the situation got much worse. Now it is so bad that even if the United States and other countries step in by offering weapons to the rebel forces, there is little good that would do. The rebels have essentially lost, and the only way to turn things around we be to put troops on the ground.

As we stand by doing nothing, the Syrian government murders its own people, men, women, and children.

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