Syria: Conflict Takes Unacceptable Toll on Lives of Children

New York – Five years of intensifying hostilities and violence in Syria have taken an unacceptable toll on the lives of boys and girls, said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict during a briefing to the UN Security Council on the situation of children in Syria.

During her presentation, Zerrougui detailed how children continue to be killed, maimed, recruited and used by parties to the conflict. She also highlighted how the future of millions of children is jeopardized by attacks on schools and education.

The Special Representative called on all parties to the conflict to end grave violations against children and to abide by their obligations under international law.

“Aerial bombardments of civilian areas by Syrian Government Forces have continued to cause a significant proportion of the verified cases of child casualties in 2015,” said Leila Zerrougui. She added that the indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas by all parties to the conflict is another major cause of child casualties. The alleged mass execution of 200 children by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is another tragic example of the brutality faced by boys and girls in Syria.

Recruitment and use of children by all non-state armed groups
“A continuing feature of the conflict in Syria is the widespread recruitment and use of children by all non-state armed groups,” declared the Special Representative. “The UN has received reports that these groups targeted children as young as seven and forcibly recruited children through coercion of family members and abductions.”

ISIL allegedly recruited up to 400 children between January and March 2015 alone and used some children as executioners. The United Nations also verified cases of foreign children used by the armed group. Both ISIL and the Al Nusra Front have used children to perpetrate acts of extreme violence.

Children allegedly associated with armed groups have been detained by Syrian Government Forces. Some were subjected to torture, or died while in custody. Zerrougui reiterated that children recruited by armed groups are victims and should be treated as such.

Over a quarter of all schools in Syria damaged or destroyed
The conflict’s impact on education continues to be devastating. At the end of September, almost 6,000, or over a quarter of all schools in Syria, were either damaged or destroyed. An estimated two million internally displaced boys and girls and 700,000 Syrian refugee children are currently out of school.

“A whole generation is at risk of not receiving an education, with serious consequences for their future,” said Leila Zerrougui, who urged the international community to make significant investments to protect and provide education in emergencies.

The Special Representative welcomed the emergence of a broader consensus to reach a political solution to the conflict in Syria, as well as the acknowledgement of the linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process following this weekend’s meeting of the International Syria Support Group. She concluded her presentation by reminding the members of the Security Council and all those involved in negotiations over Syria that strengthening the protection of children must be at the centre of any peace talks.

###

Note to editors:

You can read the Special Representative’s remarks to the UN Security Council here

The Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict lists in its annexes parties to conflict found to have committed one or more of the violations that the Security Council has designated as trigger for listing.

Parties to the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic included in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict are:

  • Ahrar al-Sham al-Islam (a,b)
  • Free Syrian Army (FSA) – affiliated groups (a)
  • Government forces, including the National Defence Forces and the Shabbiha militia (b,c,d,)
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (a,b,c,d)
  • Al-Nusra Front (Jhabat al-Nusra) (a,b)
  • 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
(d) Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals

For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay
Communications Officer,
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,
+1-212-963-8285 (office), +1-917-288-5791 (mobile),
tremblay@un.org