Leila Zerrougui on the 4th year of conflict in Syria

As the conflict in Syria enters its fifth year, the country’s children continue to suffer the harsh consequences of a war that becomes more brutal every day.

The lives of millions of children have been disrupted by this war. They have been forced to abandon everything, fleeing sometimes with their families, sometimes alone, replacing the anguish of war by the uncertainty of displacement, the challenges of exile. Those who are still in Syria are confronted to new and ever more dangerous threats. They endure daily violence and brutal tactics used by all parties to the conflict.

The recruitment and use of children has become common. A great majority of the children recruited are trained, armed and used in combat. Too many of them are younger than 15. The Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) publicly stated they would protect children from recruitment. We received these commitments as positive steps, but we know the reality on the ground is quite different. Armed groups continue to prey on children, sometimes luring them with the promise of a salary, in a country where most economic opportunities have vanished and survival is a constant struggle.

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, holds a sign with the hashtag #WhatDoesItTake in Arabic. Copyrights: OSRSG-CAAC

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, holds a sign with the hashtag #WhatDoesItTake in Arabic. Copyrights: OSRSG-CAAC

The rise of Daesh in Syria adds another challenge to a desperate situation. The group uses the abduction and indoctrination of children as a tool to terrorize and impose its will on communities. They also encourage or force children to watch or take part in gruesome acts of violence used as public spectacle.

Today, bombs continue to fall on civilian areas. Children trying to escape besieged areas are at risk of getting shot by snipers. Syria is a country where children die of easily treatable diseases and where most classrooms are silent.

The children of Palestinian refugees face added uncertainty because of their stateless status. Some of their communities are still under siege.

Again this year, I pay tribute to the Governments of the region and to the international community that is supporting the millions of refugees from Syria and the millions more displaced inside their own country.

Over the years, we have urged all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to protect children. We have repeated that Syria was one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child. We have warned the world that we were at risk of losing an entire generation of children. Four years after the beginning of the conflict, all of this is still true. With each day that goes by, more children have only known the violence of war, the anxiety of a life with an uncertain future.

This year, I call on all of you – political leaders, humanitarians, parties to the conflict and anyone who can influence them- let’s not give up on the children of Syria. They need a solution to this conflict. They need a chance to reclaim their lives, their present and their future.

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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