Syrian Arab Republic

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.

The conflict was marked by increasing indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombings, especially in the second half of the year, and the proliferation of parties involved, including international forces. Besiegement of areas continued to be used as a tactic of war. On 27 February 2016, a cessation of hostilities agreement allowed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to previously unreached areas. Owing to the increasingly constrained monitoring environment, the figures below do not reflect the full scale of grave violations committed by all parties to the conflict.

A total of 362 cases of recruitment and use of children were verified and attributed to ISIL (274), the Free Syrian Army and affiliated groups (62), Liwa’ al Tawhid (11), popular committees (5), Kurdish People’s Protection Units (4), Ahrar al-Sham (3), the Nusrah Front (2) and the Army of Islam (1). Of the verified cases, 56 per cent involved children under 15 years of age, a significant increase compared with 2014. The payment of salaries and ideology continued to be major influencing factors.

The massive recruitment and use of children by ISIL continued. The United Nations verified the existence of centres in rural Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr and rural Raqqah that provided military training to at least 124 boys between 10 and 15 years of age. Verification of the use of child foreign fighters increased significantly, with 18 cases of children as young as 7 years of age. The use of children as child executioners was reported and appeared in video footage.

The United Nations also verified the recruitment and use of children as young as 9 years of age by the Free Syrian Army, and the recruitment of 11 Syrian refugee children from neighbouring countries by Liwa’ al-Tawhid. While cases became increasingly difficult to verify, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units continued to recruit boys and girls as young as 14 years of age for combat roles, with pressure and coercion by communities reportedly a factor.

Recruitment and use by pro-Government groups was verified, with five cases of boys being recruited by the Popular Committee of Tallkalakh (Homs) to work as guards and conduct patrols. In addition, there were allegations of the use of children by government forces to man checkpoints.

The Government continued to detain children for their alleged association with armed opposition groups, with 36 cases verified. In 28 of those cases, the children were tortured, and one incident resulted in the child’s death in detention. Pro Government groups continued to deprive children of liberty for alleged association with opposition groups, with three cases attributed to the Popular Committee of Bludan. There were also five cases of ISIL depriving children of liberty owing to their association with parties to conflict.

Air strikes, indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and objects, and complex attacks were the primary causes of killing and maiming of children. The United Nations verified 591 cases of children killed (269 boys, 106 girls and 196 of unknown sex) and 555 injured (203 boys, 128 girls and 224 of unknown sex), attributed to government forces and international forces supporting the Government (585), ISIL (142), the Nusrah Front (23), other armed groups (168), the international coalition against ISIL (7), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (2) and unknown parties (219). Mortar, rocket and suicide attacks on government-controlled areas resulted in the killing and maiming of 275 children (77 boys, 93 girls and 105 of unknown sex), attributed to ISIL (79), the Nusrah Front (14) and other armed groups (167). Aerial attacks and shelling of civilian areas by government forces and international forces supporting the Government killed and injured 531 children, including 133 from indiscriminate barrel bombs.

There was a significant increase in the number of verified cases of children killed and maimed as a result of their association with armed groups, including while participating in combat. Owing to the large numbers of children used by ISIL, at least 148 children were killed in ISIL military areas targeted by air strikes by government forces, international forces supporting the Government and the international coalition. ISIL and the Nusrah Front continued to commit atrocities, including the execution of children. On 5 March, the Nusrah Front executed two children during a ground offensive on Kanafez (Hama). On 22 August, in Muh Hasan (Dayr al-Zawr), ISIL publicly amputated limbs of a 15-year-old boy accused of being affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

Conflict-related sexual violence against children continued to be extremely difficult to document, with no case verified in 2015. In areas controlled by ISIL, girls reportedly continued to be vulnerable to early and forced marriage to fighters, while Yezidi girls captured in Iraq in 2014 were reportedly trafficked into the Syrian Arab Republic and used as sex slaves.

According to the Ministry of Education, since the beginning of the conflict, more than 6,500 schools have been destroyed, partially damaged, used as shelters for internally displaced persons or rendered otherwise inaccessible. The Ministry reported that 571 students and 419 teachers had been killed in 2015. The United Nations verified 69 attacks on educational facilities (60) and personnel (9) attributed to government forces and pro-Government groups (48), ISIL (11), the Nusrah Front (1), other armed groups (9) and unknown parties (1), which killed and maimed 174 children.

ISIL continued to use education to indoctrinate and recruit children. In December, it imposed new regulations of compulsory education for all boys from grades 1 to 12, and for girls from grades 1 to 4, which is a factor contributing to recruitment in ISIL-controlled areas.

Reports of attacks on medical facilities increased, with 122 attacks on 93 separate medical facilities and at least 60 medical personnel targeted or killed. The United Nations verified 41 attacks on health facilities (33) and health personnel (8) by government forces and pro-Government groups (32), ISIL (2), other armed groups (2) and unknown parties (5).

The United Nations verified eight incidents of military use of schools by government forces in Idlib in March (four of the schools were subsequently attacked by armed groups) and three incidents of military use of hospitals by ISIL in Dayr al Zawr and Raqqah.

Children continued to be abducted by parties to the conflict, with 21 cases (15 boys, 4 girls and 2 of unknown sex) attributed to government forces in a hostage-taking incident (13), ISIL (5) and 1 each to the Nusrah Front, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

Parties to the conflict, in particular the Government, ISIL, the Nusrah Front and armed opposition groups, continued to use siege and starvation as a tactic of war. In January 2016, an estimated 393,700 people were living under siege. Deaths of children as a result of malnutrition were reported. Some 35,000 children targeted by polio vaccination campaigns could not be reached owing to denial of vaccinations by armed groups, including ISIL. The use of water as a weapon of war escalated significantly, with some 7.7 million civilians affected by deliberate water cuts. The United Nations verified attacks on humanitarian facilities and attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel.

I call upon the Government to respect its obligations and take urgent action to protect civilians. Furthermore, I urge the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army to end child recruitment and use, and implement the commitments previously made.

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 the Levant a,b,c,d
5.       Nusrah Fronta,b
6.       People’s Protection Units (YPG)a

* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.

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.

annual report summary

Click to read a summary of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict