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Blindfolded & Beaten: The Tortured Children of the Syrian War

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This mother carries her child after he was shot by Syrian forces. The photos of the children who have died in Syria are so graphic we can't show them to you.

I don’t like writing about religious or political issues, mainly because I know someone will just get mad at me, and I don’t like when people are mad at me. Yet … Syria. The children in Syria.

The United Nations reported this week that children in the middle of the Syrian conflict are being tortured and murdered. It’s happened enough and the reports are credible enough that the UN has added Syria to its List of Shame.

The List of Shame includes 52 countries that, “… kill, recruit or sexually assault children during armed conflicts,” according to Reuters. First of all, did you even know there was a List of Shame? I didn’t. Second of all, there are 52 countries doing this? FIFTY-TWO?!

In its new report, the U.N.’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says children the same age as my beautiful boy, Jackson, are being tortured, molested and used as human shields in the Syrian conflict. Both sides are culpable, but the UN states that most of the crimes against children are being committed by Syrian president Assad’s regime and forces loyal to it. UN special representative Radhika Coomaraswamy told the BBC she has never seen anything like what’s happening in Syria right now. “We are really quite shocked,” said Coomaraswamy. “Killing and maiming of children in cross-fire is something we come across in many conflicts but this torture of children in detention, children as young as 10, is something quite extraordinary, which we don’t really see in other places.”

Here’s a lowlight of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict report on Syria: “Children between 8 and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and used by soldiers as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on villages. Schools have been regularly raided, used as military bases and detention centers. In detention, girls and boys were beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions and to electrical shocks, as well as whipped with heavy electrical cables.”

And then there are the ones who’ve been killed. Just last week in a massacre in the Syrian village of Taldou, 49 children and 34 women were murdered. Most had been shot, despite the fact that their deaths were blamed on shelling. Forty-nine children. That would be like killing every single child in my neighborhood plus some.

There are gray areas in any conflict. Who’s right, who’s wrong. Fog of war and all that. The kind of stuff that prevents nations from getting involved in these things. Isn’t this what happened in Germany? In Sudan? We stay out of it because we don’t want to go to war over a problem that’s not our own. I understand that. I don’t want our military members in harm’s way.

Except that I can’t get the maiming and torturing of children out of my mind. Why? Why do that?  I think of how hard women work to get through postpartum depression so they can be happy mothers. I think of how far women walk to get vaccines in developing countries. I think of how dangerous just giving birth can be in some places. And then mothers could just lose their children, just like that? As a parent I feel the panic rise inside of me when I hear of any child in danger. I want to round them all up and move them off to the sidelines, outside of the range of men who clash with each other for reasons I don’t understand.

So what is being done about this?

Meighan Stone, principal at the Developing Group, says it’s difficult to help people within the country at this point, but there are several relief agencies helping refugees in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. They include:

UNICEF - Working with local organizations with a focus on children’s education, child protection, psychological counseling, and water and sanitation. They create “child-friendly play spaces” so that refugee children have open, safe places to be able to play again and start to process what they’ve experienced. UNICEF staffs these “play spaces” with counselors, teachers, and staff to support the kids.

Save The Children - Also working with refugee children on child-friendly play spaces, training teachers on post-trauma care, counseling and child protection.

International Rescue Committee - Opening medical clinics in Jordan to serve families, providing sleeping mats and kitchen sets. They also support expecting moms and new moms who are refugees with things like pre- and post-natal care.

If, like me, you care about these Syrian children, stay tuned.

Don’t miss a moment – make sure you add Something Fierce to your RSS reader by using this link. If you’re a pregnant or new mom (or dad), be sure to check out Katherine at her blog on postpartum depression, too. And, you can follow her on Twitter as she tweets inane things about her day. 

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