Syrian children 'tortured and traumatised'


A REPORT by Save the Children has described how Syrian children, now living as refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, were abused, tortured and traumatised before fleeing the conflict gripping their country for the past 18 months.

Hassan, whose story is told in Untold Atrocities: The Stories of Syria’s Children, describes the mayhem caused by a rocket that struck a funeral procession in his village. “Dead bodies along with injured people were scattered on the ground . . . Dogs were eating the dead bodies for two days.”

Khaled (15) told how cigarettes were stubbed out on his body while he was suspended by his wrists from the ceiling of the school where his father was principal.

Wael (16), detained with many others, said Alaa, the six-year-old son of an anti-regime activist, was tortured and denied water and food for three days until he died.

“Every crime against children must be recorded to send a clear message to all sides . . . that these atrocities will not be tolerated,” the charity said, and called on human rights teams to investigate these crimes.

Before the report’s release, security forces at the camp used tear gas to disperse refugees who were rioting. They were demanding better accommodation, food and schools for their children.

Some Syrians have been prevented from going home by Jordanian security. The UN High Commission for Refugees deems the situation in Syria too dangerous for their return.

In an outlying district of Damascus yesterday, seven bomb blasts were reported at a school where army officers were said to be holding a meeting.

Ansar al-Islam, a fundamentalist rebel group, took responsibility for the operation. State news agency Sana reported that seven people had been injured. There were also reports from activists of clashes on Baghdad Street in central Damascus.

In Aleppo the army bombarded rebel-infiltrated southwestern districts, according to the British-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There were also reports of mortars fired from Syria landing in an orchard in the Israeli-occupied Golan.

Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoabi said the rebels would be defeated. “It is only a matter of time, and it won’t be long. We are heading for victory.”

In spite of the escalating conflict, UN World Food Programme country director Muhannad Hadi said food aid was being provided by the agency to residents of one of the areas in Homs “that sustained a lot of damage”. It was also prepared to assist those returning to the area.

The agency estimates that 223,000 people living in shelters and mosques depend on its assistance.

UN secretary general Ban Ki- moon yesterday castigated the UN Security Council for inaction over Syria, which he said was “a regional calamity with global ramifications”.

Following a council briefing, UN- Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had no intention of carrying out meaningful reforms, that torture was routine and that injured people were afraid to go to army-controlled hospitals.