Syrian Arab Republic

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/68/878–S/2014/339) issued on 15 May 2014.

The conflict and violence in the Syrian Arab Republic reached unprecedented levels during 2013. Intense bombardments by Government forces on opposition-controlled or disputed areas, increased operations by a growing number of armed groups in constantly evolving coalitions as well as the expansion of the control of Islamist groups in northern Syrian Arab Republic led to massive grave violations against children. Hundreds of civilians, including many children, were killed during the chemical attack on Damascus suburbs in August.

Numerous armed groups are reportedly recruiting and using children in the Syrian Arab Republic, including several FSA-affiliated groups, the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), Jhabat al-Nusra, and other armed groups. All of the groups actively recruit and use children for logistics, handling ammunition, manning checkpoints and as combatants. Reports indicated that the recruitment of children or pressure to join armed groups also occur among refugee populations in neighbouring countries. Most children associated with FSA-affiliated groups, as young as 14 years of age, indicated that they had received weapons training and 4,000 to 8,000 Syrian pounds pay per month. For instance, a 14-year-old boy who joined the al-Murabiteen battalion of the Falloujat Houran FSA brigade in Bosra al-Sham, Dara’a Governorate, reportedly received a 15 days of weapons training in al-Lajat valley close to Bosra al-Sham. In June 2013, two brothers, 16 and 17 years old, joined the FSA-affiliated Majd al-Islam brigade in Dara’a, where they cleaned weapons and performed security duties. YPG reportedly trained children with adults near Al‑Qamishli, al-Hassakeh governorate and used them at checkpoints and in combat. For instance, a 14-year-old boy reportedly recruited in September 2013 was trained in Rassalein, al-Hassakeh governorate, and used in hostilities. Islamist groups such as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham also recruited and used children. A 15‑year-old boy reportedly joined Ahrar al-Sham in Mayadin, Deir ez-Zor governorate, in March 2013 and continued to be associated with the group at the time of reporting. A 16-year-old boy reportedly joined Jabhat al-Nusra around April 2013 and stayed with the group for three months. ISIS reportedly used children as young as eight in hostilities. Children fighting with ISIS are reportedly paid like adults (35,000 Syrian pounds, approximately $200) and undergo both weapons and jihadist indoctrination training.

Adults and children released from detention reported that children were still present in detention facilities and suffered treatment tantamount to torture. For instance, a 17-year-old boy accused of participating in anti-Government demonstrations was arrested by Government forces in March 2013, detained in Homs, and subsequently for three months in the Damascus Political Security Detention Centre, where he was repeatedly beaten and forced to remain in stress positions. The boy reported that other children were present in the detention centre. Children were also reportedly arrested and detained in October 2013 during the temporary evacuation of over 1,000 civilians from al-Moaddamiyeh besieged area in Rif Damascus. The Government stated that no children were detained during the evacuation. Several cases of arrest or detention may amount to enforced disappearances. For instance, the whereabouts of two boys, 16 and 17 years old, reportedly detained by the Syrian Air Force Intelligence in Aleppo in May and June 2013 for alleged cooperation with the opposition remained unknown at the time of reporting. Approximately 1,500 detainees, including children, are reportedly held in the ISIS main detention centre in al-Raqqah. No disaggregated data on children was available. According to the Government, all detained children under 18 are prosecuted in accordance with juvenile law. In addition, the Government states that numerous amnesty decrees have been issued.

More than 10,000 children are estimated to have been killed since the outset of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic and the killing and maiming of children has increased exponentially in 2013. Government forces continued to indiscriminately shell civilian-populated areas, in particular in Homs and Aleppo, but also in Deir
ez-Zor, Idlib, Damascus and Al-Raqqa governorates. The use of barrel bombs by Government forces in Aleppo city in December alone led to hundreds of children killed and injured. Children also continued to be killed in ground offensives by Government forces. On 29 January, during the “Al-Queiq river” massacre in Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo, at least 10 children were reportedly among those summarily executed. Other massacres were reportedly committed by Government forces in several villages in the Al-Sfera area, south of Aleppo, between April and June. For instance, on 21 June, in Mazrat al Rahib village, at least three children were reportedly summarily executed along with at least 58 men. In early May, a high number of children were reportedly among the hundreds of civilians killed and burned by Government forces in Ras al-Nabaa district of Baniyas town and al-Bayda village.

Armed groups also continued to kill and maim children, including through the use of terror tactics and during ground operations throughout the Syrian Arab Republic. For instance, during Eid al-Fitr in July, at least 13 children were killed in a mortar shelling on areas of Zahra, besieged by Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS/Land Liwa al-Tawhid. On 4 August, the end of Ramadan, armed groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al Muhajireen wal-Ansar and Suquor al-izz, allegedly killed more than 200 persons, of whom at least 18 were children, including during executions of entire families in Latakia governorate during the “Barouda” offensive. On 10 September, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar
al-Sham allegedly attacked villages in eastern Homs, killing more than 30 civilians of which half were women and children.

While sexual violence against boys and girls in Government-controlled detention facilities has been documented previously, an increasing number of women and girls reported to the United Nations that they were subject to repeated sexual harassment at Government checkpoints. Government forces also reportedly abducted young women and girls in groups at checkpoints or in transport and released them a few days later in their village, intentionally exposing them as victims of rape and subjecting them to rejection by their families. Allegations of sexual violence against boys and girls by Jabhat al-Nusra and other unidentified armed groups were also received. For example, a boy of unknown age and his father were allegedly raped by several members of Jabhat al-Nusra. In another incident, a 15-year-old girl in Al Qoseir was reportedly gang-raped by unidentified armed elements and subsequently killed by family members for “having lost her sanity” following the event. The general fear of sexual violence by parties to the conflict continued to be stated as a reason for which Syrian families flee the country.

An increasing number of mosques hosting schools have reportedly been shelled during indiscriminate bombardments or directly targeted by missiles. For instance, on 30 July, Government forces shelled the Hamza mosque, recognized as a girls’ school, in Anadan area, north of Aleppo. Nine girls, all younger than 10 years of age, and four female teachers were reportedly killed. ISIS control of school curricula, forcing teachers to introduce their ideology, was a growing concern. According to the Government, armed groups systematically targeted schools, with more than 3,000 being partially or completely destroyed. Hospitals and field clinics also continued to be damaged in targeted and indiscriminate shelling. For instance, in early November, in al-Bab district of Aleppo, Government forces shelled an opposition-run hospital twice, reportedly killing one doctor and two nurses. In March, an FSA brigade attacked the national hospital in Dara’a. According to the Government, 63 hospitals and 470 health centres have been targeted by armed groups. Doctors and medical personnel have also been killed or abducted for ransom by ISIS in northern Syrian Arab Republic. For instance, the whereabouts of two doctors reportedly arrested by ISIS in mid-December 2013 remained unknown at the time of reporting. As at March 2014, 68 of 118 UNRWA schools have been closed owing to conflict. Of 67,000 Palestine refugee children registered in UNRWA schools, 41,500 are currently attending classes. Fourteen UNRWA schools operated as shelters for displaced Palestine refugees and Syrians.

The abduction of civilians, including children, became an increasingly prevalent feature of the Syrian conflict, mainly committed by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham. Allegations of mass abductions, sometimes followed by summary executions, including against minority communities, were also received. For instance, a 16-year-old boy was reportedly executed after a month and a half in the custody of Ahrar al-Sham. Approximately 50 children were also reportedly among the 200 persons abducted by several armed groups during the “Barouda” offensive, in August 2013 in Latakia governorate.

Active denial or intentional restriction of humanitarian access by all parties to the conflict remained a serious concern. As at 9 January 2014, 242,000 people were estimated to be living in besieged areas. Homs Old City, Darayya, al-Yarmouk Palestinian camp, Moadamiya al-Sham, Eastern Ghouta, including Douma, Arbin, Zamalka and Kafr Batna, were besieged by Government forces. Other localities, like Zahra and Nubul, were besieged by a coalition of Liwa al Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. All besieged areas were cut off from all humanitarian assistance for months in 2013. Increasing reports were received of civilians, including children, dying in areas under siege. In addition, humanitarian access to areas controlled by extremist groups, in particular by ISIS in northern Syrian Arab Republic, was severely impeded and the seizure of goods, as well as abduction and killing of humanitarian personnel was a repeated concern.

My Special Representative visited the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring countries to assess the conflict’s impact on children and discuss the strengthening of the monitoring of grave violations and measures to end and prevent violations by all parties. In 2013, the Government criminalized the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, and on 23 September announced the establishment of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Children and Armed Conflict. My Special Representative also engaged with representatives of the Syrian National Coalition on their commitments in relation to the protection of children in armed conflict. I also note the command order issued by General Command for YPG on 4 October 2013 condemning and prohibiting the recruitment of children.

Parties in the Syrian Arab Republic 

1.       Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamia,b
2.       Free Syrian Army (FSA) — affiliated groupsa
3.       Government forces, including the National Defence Forces and the Shabbiha militiab,c,d
4.       Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS)a,b
5.       Jhabat Al-Nusraa,b
6.       People Protection Units (YPG)a

a Parties that recruit and use children.
b Parties that kill and maim children.
c Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children.
d Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.