Syrian Arab Republic

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

Conflict continued at unprecedented levels across the Syrian Arab Republic, resulting in massive violations against children. The United Nations verified 2,107 grave violations by all parties to the conflict in major urban and rural areas. ISIL has taken over large parts of the country and used public brutality and indoctrination to ensure the submission of communities; children were specifically targeted. The United Nations had limited capacity to verify information in the areas under the control of ISIL. Sieges and bombardments of civilian areas continued, particularly by Syrian Government Forces, which also hampered the verification of incidents.

The recruitment and use of children in combat has become commonplace in the Syrian Arab Republic. While actual numbers are expected to be higher, the United Nations verified that 271 boys and 7 girls had been recruited and used by groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) (142), Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) (24), ISIL (69) and al-Nusra Front (ANF) (25). In 77 per cent of the cases, children were armed or used in combat and almost one fifth were under 15 years of age. Boys associated with armed groups were commonly between 14 and 17 years of age, with 17 verified cases under the age of 15. In many cases, children were paid to fight for salaries of up to $400 per month. The payment of relatively large salaries by ANF, FSA, and in particular ISIL, created an incentive for children and their parents under difficult economic circumstances.

Fragmentation of FSA resulted in localized and variable recruitment, training and salary practices. During armed battles, children were used for fighting, attending to the wounded or for recording events for propaganda purposes.

YPG/YPJ continued to recruit and use boys and girls, including children younger than 15 years, reportedly taking them to indoctrination and training camps. For example, in March, a 13-year-old girl was taken to Ras al-Ayn for military training and the requests by her parents to see her were refused. In most cases, children were used in combat roles, and repeated allegations of “conscription” policies targeting children were levelled against YPG/YPJ.

Reports of the recruitment and use of boys by ISIL and ANF increased significantly. In 25 per cent of verified cases, boys were under the age of 15, including some as young as 8 years of age. ISIL reportedly established at least three child training camps in Raqqa, and hundreds of boys as young as 10 years of age were imprisoned in Aleppo, forced to attend indoctrination seminars and promised salaries, mobile phones, weapons, a martyr’s place in paradise and the “gift” of a wife upon joining ISIL. In training and using children for combat roles, ISIL has violated international humanitarian law and perpetrated war crimes on a mass scale. Children were also recruited as suicide bombers and used to perpetrate extreme violence. For example, in July, four boys fighting with ANF in Dar’a participated in the beheading of four Syrian Government Forces soldiers.

A number of pro-Government groups, including Hizbullah, also reportedly recruited children in small numbers. Five boys joined the Popular Committee to support Syrian Government forces in al-Midan, Damascus. Children were also used as human shields and for forced labour. In November, children were among the civilians reportedly forced at gunpoint to be in front of the Syrian Government forces tanks entering the town of al-Sheikh Meskin to secure the Dar’a-Damascus highway.

Detention of children by Syrian authorities continued, with 38 verified cases (31 boys, 7 girls), including 15 who were subjected to torture. Children were arrested at checkpoints and schools. For example, in a verified incident in July, a 14-year-old boy from Homs, who had been detained in the State Security Centre, confessed under torture to carrying weapons and attacking checkpoints.

Indiscriminate attacks launched in civilian populated areas continued to cause widespread killing and maiming. The United Nations verified the killing of 368 children (184 boys, 66 girls, 118 gender unknown) by Syrian Government forces (221), ISIL/ANF (44), FSA-affiliated groups (24), international coalition airstrikes (4) and unknown parties (75). There were 771 cases of children maimed (420 boys, 142 girls, 209 gender unknown) by Syrian Government forces and pro-Government groups (336), FSA-affiliated groups (296), ISIL and ANF (19), YPG/YPJ (1) and unknown parties (119) across the country. Actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

Armed groups killed and maimed children by firing mortars mainly in Government-controlled areas. For example, a 7-year-old boy and a teacher were killed and 56 children injured in a mortar attack on the Al-Manar Armenian Catholic School in Damascus in April. Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and suicide attacks by armed groups accounted for almost one fifth of child casualties. In April, 69 children were killed and injured in a double vehicle -borne improvised explosive device attack in a Government-controlled neighbourhood of Homs.

The public brutality and extreme violence perpetrated by ISIL also targeted children. For example, in July, a 15-year-old boy accused of adultery was publicly executed in Manbij, with his parents forced to watch and his corpse left on display for three days. In November, civilians were forced to participate in the stoning of a 14-year-old girl in Dei-ez-Zor. ISIL reportedly encouraged children to participate in public brutality, including holding decapitated heads for public display or playing “football” with them.

Aerial bombardment of civilian areas accounted for over 90 per cent of children documented killed and maimed by Syrian Government forces. In an attack in April by Syrian Government forces on the Ein Jalout primary school in Aleppo, 33 children were killed and 40 injured. Barrel bombs accounted for almost one third of child casualties inflicted by Syrian Government forces, including 6 children killed in June in al-Shajara internally displaced persons camp, Dar’a. Children continued to be killed during ground operations by pro-Government groups. For instance, in July, three children, aged 10 to 14 years, fleeing Suweida were killed by Popular Committee fighters. Children also continued to fall victim to explosive remnants of war.

The United Nations received 18 reports of sexual violence against children by ISIL (9), Syrian Government forces (5), Popular Committees (2), FSA (1) and the Kurdish police (1), of which 11 were verified. Forced marriage of girls to foreign fighters became common in ISIL-controlled territory. In July, the father of a 14-year-old girl in Aleppo was tortured for three days until he agreed to have his daughter marry an Egyptian ISIL “Emir”. ISIL issued guidance on the treatment of sex slaves, including children, and Yazidi girls abducted in Iraq were moved to and sold in Raqqa. Allegations of sexual violence against children by Syrian Government forces and pro-Government groups continued, with doctors reporting treating raped girls requesting abortions. In January, a 13-year-old boy was “arrested” at a checkpoint by the Popular Committee in Suweida and repeatedly raped over the course of three days.

According to the Ministry of Education, 889 schools had been fully (379) or partially (510) damaged by end-2014. The United Nations verified 60 attacks on education facilities by Syrian Government forces (39), ISIL (9), FSA (1), and unidentified parties (11). For example, in October two explosions near the Al Makhzomi and Al Mouhdetheh primary schools in Akrama, Homs City, killed 29 children and maimed 27. Families repeatedly reported being too scared to send their children to school. The military use of schools also continued, with nine verified cases: YPG/YPJ (4), FSA (3) and ISIL (2). ISIL appropriated schools for child indoctrination, and in late 2014 all schools in ISIL-controlled Aleppo, Dei-ezZor and Raqqa were closed pending adoption of a “modified” curriculum.

By December, 413 medical facilities tracked by the United Nations were partially or fully damaged, while 823 were only partially functioning or not functioning due to shortage of staffing, equipment or use for other purposes. Eighty – six attacks on health facilities and 178 medical personnel killed were reported. The United Nations verified 28 attacks on health facilities and personnel by: Syrian Government forces (17), ISIL (9) and unidentified parties (2). For example, in May, a rocket attack on an FSA field hospital in an abandoned school in Jasem, Dar’a resulted in the death of two children and four medical personnel.

Abductions became a prominent tool used by ISIL. The United Nations verified that ISIL abducted and/or imprisoned 463 children, including for use in prisoner exchanges and for recruitment purposes, a number of whom were tortured. In May, 153 Kurdish boys aged 13 to 17 years were abducted in Manbij, Aleppo, while returning home from their school exams. Armed groups also arbitrarily detained children for alleged “criminal” offenses.

By January 2015, 212,000 persons remained under siege, 163,500 of them by Syrian Government forces and 26,500 by armed groups, and subjected to starvation. Children attempting to escape besieged areas were killed by snipers or in minefields. In January, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a sniper while attempting to leave al-Nashabiya, Rural Damascus. Attacks by armed groups on civilian infrastructure left millions of persons, including children, without access to water and electricity. Administrative blockages and refusals to allow certain items on inter-agency convoys, including surgical supplies, were common and threats and attacks on humanitarian personnel and facilities continued.

There were several meetings between the United Nations and the Government’s Interministerial Committee on Child Protection, and an expert level group of government and United Nations officials was established to strengthen engagement. In May, the United Nations provided training materials to support th e Commission for Family Affairs in conducting child rights orientation for Syrian Government forces; however, this has yet to be implemented. Legislative Decree 22, adopted in June, granted an amnesty for children associated with armed groups, and the Government committed to diverting those children to rehabilitation programmes. However, cases of children detained by Syrian Government forces were verified by the United Nations throughout the year. In all circumstances, children are entitled to benefit from the special status of juveniles in conflict with the law, in conformity with international humanitarian and human rights law. 207. The political and military leadership of both YPG/YPJ and the FSA Supreme Military Council publicly committed to ending child recruitment and use, enforcing disciplinary measures and issuing command orders to that effect. However, the recruitment and use of children by both groups following these commitments continued and was verified by the United Nations.

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,c,d
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.