It is a painful time to be right about predictions we hoped would not come true, writes War Child.
War Child's report on the 23rd July (“Syria: A War on Childhood”) warned of the depth and scale of war crimes against children in Syria and the human price that inaction would cost, now and for generations to come.
We spoke out in the media about Syria being disturbingly unique in regard to its treatment of children and plans for peace that have comprehensively failed them; we predicted that what evidence did exist was only part of a much larger and much more gruesome picture that is still likely to grow as access increases. And yes, it has only got worse.
The situation in Syria has been declining at an alarming pace: nine massacres and now estimations reaching 20,000 deaths. Since the report was released, the most populace Syrian cities and the youth-populated capital of Damascus have been bombarded by violent attacks.
The crisis was formally declared as meeting all the legal criteria of an outright Civil War just over a month ago, on the 15th July. But this was no 'normal' conflict. From execution-style killings to being used as human shields, the Syrian conflict has been characterised by the ruthless, deliberate targeting of civilians, particularly children. The UN Human Rights Council report, released a month later on August 15, has now confirmed and corroborates our claims of War Crimes on both sides of the conflict: “The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and the Shabbiha had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property”. They add, in a box of its own, that; “Both groups violated the rights of children.”
The state of war has intensified and grown in scale, as the UN prepares to pack their bags and hopes for an internationally brokered peace are 'formally' abandoned. Recent events only serve to exemplify that the situation has moved backwards and downwards rather than onwards and upwards: the UN Peace envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, resigned on the August 2 amid stalemates of peace and its politics – with conflicts within the UN Security Council echoing the Syrian battlefields.
Despite the further erosion of prospects for peace and war crimes being confirmed, on Sunday August 19 the UN peace keeping mission for Syria (UNSMIS) expires with no renewal of their mandate. Why? Not in-spite of but precisely because of the failed peace. As is too often the cry, it is too little too late: a peace-keeping mission is defunct in all-out war, with no semblance of peace to keep.
It is not clear exactly what the next frontier of the Syrian conflict will be. What is clear is that children are bearing the brunt on all frontlines of violence as Syria is reaching breaking point in a war that decided against peace. As Kofi Annan stated with frustration upon his resignation: "You have to understand: As an envoy, I can't want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council or the international community for that matter...The bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government's intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition — all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community."
Among all the politics and protagonists of violence, children have not been incidental collateral of war; but continue to be seen as central to a conflict which is attacking the future citizens of a warring region. In this complex situation, some simple things still apply: the fighting must stop; the international community need to stand by Syria's children; and plans must be made for recovery.