“An airplane dropped a barrel bomb on our school. The poorest people ran away after the bomb, which shattered all the windows in our house. I was hurt when they dropped another bomb. I got shrapnel fragments in my face and back…Some of my friends are frightened of me because of the scar on my face. They don’t want to play with me.” – Safi, nine years old. Image: © UNICEF/UNI159514/Yurtsever
Children are not just accidental victims. They are being attacked as targets of war.
In the last couple of years, UNICEF and the UN have verified thousands of grave violations
against children and these only represent the tip of the iceberg.
~ The following section includes reports of violence which may be distressing and are not suitable for young readers. Click here to skip to UNICEF's plan of action. ~
Children have tried to escape from starvation in besieged towns, only to be shot by snipers or killed in minefields.
They have been arrested at their schools, detained in ‘security centres’ and tortured into confessions.
Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war, with boys as young as 13 repeatedly raped and young girls impregnated. Others have been abducted, bought and sold as sex slaves.
The recruitment and use of children in armed combat has become routine, with boys and girls as young as seven indoctrinated and forced to commit extreme violence. Children have been made to participate in the beheading of soldiers and others recruited as suicide bombers. One group of children was reportedly forced at gunpoint to stand in the way of tanks as they entered town.
Civilians have been made to join in the stoning of a 14-year-old girl and children encouraged to play “football” with decapitated heads.
Parents have been forced to watch as their 15-year-old boy was accused of adultery and publicly executed. His corpse was left on display for three days.
These are not the atrocities of long-past wars, of history books or period films.
These things are happening to children right now, in 2016, and our response will be judged in the history books of the next generation.