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One of the more loathsome horrors of Syria’s civil war has been the deliberate targeting of Syrian children by both pro-government and rebel forces, barbarity which includes imprisonment, rape, torture, sexual abuse, murder, and use as human shields.
That gruesome reality has been chillingly documented in recently released reports by the United Nations and two British-based humanitarian groups working with Syrian refugees, War Child and Save the Children.
While children in war zones are normally caught in the crossfire between opposing forces, the purposeful targeting of young children, according to the July 2012 War Child report, make the Syrian conflict “disturbingly unique.”
A glimpse into that disturbing uniqueness can be seen in the acts of Syrian security forces and pro-regime militias abducting children and imprisoning them in former schools which have been converted into specially designed torture centers.
There, according to a June UN report on children and armed conflict, the children are then “beaten, blindfolded, and subjected to stress positions, whipped with heavy electrical cables, and scarred by cigarette burns.”
One of these victims was a 15-year-old boy named Khalid, tortured in his old school where his father had once been the principal, who said, “They hung me up from the ceiling by my wrists, with my feet off the ground. Then I was beaten. I was terrified.”
In some instances, captors would bind the children’s hands together so tightly that, according to one victim, “the veins in their wrists would start to bleed. I witnessed so many children dying from this torture.”
For some, the maltreatment inflicted was a form of “sexual torture,” sexual violence levied on both boys and girls, some as young as 12, which included “rape, penetration with objects, sexual groping, prolonged forced nudity, and electroshock and beatings to genitalia.”
However, the type of sadistic punishment meted out to the children followed no formal protocol, but rather, according to a child sufferer who was subjected to electric shocks, “depended on what mood these men were in,” adding, “They showed no sympathy, no mercy.”
This abject cruelty was pointedly expressed in the torture and death of a 6-year-old boy named Alaa, who was slated for torture because his father was an anti-government activist wanted by the Syrian regime.
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