DISCLAIMER: Many may find these stories distressing.
As Syria’s civil war has intensified, thousands of children have died in brutal attacks and many more have been injured, traumatised, or forced to leave their homes. Boys and girls continue to be killed, maimed and tortured. These appalling violations against children must stop and those carrying them out held to account.
Save the Children is helping children recover from their horrific experiences. They have spoken with children in refugee camps on the borders of Syria who have experienced and witnessed crimes, and collected their stories in an effort to highlight how children continue to suffer in Syria. These are only a few of the testimonies from children and they paint a disturbing picture of the horrors that children have been through during this conflict.
Names have been changed to protect identities
“The nights were the worst. You couldn’t sleep, you couldn’t lie down.”
They came and arrested all the men and boys over 15 in the village. I was held in prison for three days. They hit me in the face with their batons. On the second night, they interrogated me.
They tied my hands and hung me up. They insulted me, whipped me with belts and poured water over me.
The nights were the worst. The cell was around 4×3 metres and there were lots of us in there. You couldn’t sleep at all, you couldn’t lie down. I was without food for three days, and there was no water, only water from the toilet.
I saw people dying in prison. Some died of hunger and dehydration. The only reason I got out is because they know my uncle.
Before the conflict started, I was at school. They dropped 12 bombs on my school, because one of the groups involved in the fighting had used the school for meetings.
They forced women to dig up dead bodies and leave them for dogs. The cemetery was also bombed so bodies were lying everywhere. They also cut people’s wrists, knowing there was no medical help to get and that their victims would bleed to death. That’s how the husband of the woman in the next tent died.
“I was beaten up every day, and they used electricity too.”
I was captured by the police and put in prison for 22 days. I was tortured and I saw children dying. I’ve got scars on my feet, chest and back. There were hundreds of us in prison – I was in a big cell with the other children. The youngest ones were nine or ten, they had been captured. I was beaten up every day, and they used electricity too.
In prison, when someone died, they kept hitting the body. There were dead bodies in my cell too – they’d been there for a long time and they stank. They were decomposing – there were maggots. Eventually, they threw me out. They carried me out on a blanket. I couldn’t move. A passerby stopped and looked at my ID. He took me to my village, where my family found me and took me to hospital. I still have back pains.
I came here with my twin brother. He’s now in hospital being cared for by our older brother. He got second-degree burns after our house was attacked. There were tanks and shelling. One of my brothers was killed – shot in the head. At that time, I was in prison. That was five months ago. They ransacked houses and shops, killed small children. They even targeted schools, hospitals and mosques.
I’ve lost my father, but my mother is here in Jordan. She ran away from the camp because she had health issues. She has heart problems and the dust in the camp was making it difficult for her to breathe. I wish I could see her. I haven’t spoken to her for 20 days.
I want people to know what’s happening in Syria.
I have one friend in the camp. I come to the child-friendly spaces every now and then, but I don’t play. I used to be more sociable, but now I’m not doing anything at all. I’m depressed. I don’t want to socialise. I don’t feel secure in my sleep.
“They create a human shield of children. I saw this with my own eyes.”
I was at a funeral when I first heard the rocket that caused a massacre. I think it was targeting the funeral. My cousin and my uncle died that day.
Dead bodies along with injured people were scattered on the ground. I found body parts all over each other; and when we reached the mosque we found tens and tens of dead bodies there. We started to rescue people in need.
Dogs were eating the dead bodies for two days after the massacre. There were tons of people in the mosques too. They were dead, all of them. I was afraid, of course I was afraid.
I was devastated. I hated my life, and I hated myself. I lost my uncle and my cousin. Me and my cousin used to do everything together, and I lost him – my cousin who used to stand always by my side.
My house was burnt down. Everything was gone. I wanted to run in, but I couldn’t – it was still too hot. I looked around and everyone was so devastated, no-one could look at each other.
The children in Syria need help. They need help because they are being tortured, shelled, shot at. They take children and put them in front of them. They create a human shield of children. They know that the people in the town will not shoot their own children. I saw this with my own eyes.
I want children in Syria to escape. They should run away so they don’t die in the shelling.
What do I remember of Syria? I remember that whenever shelling took place we ran to a shelter. Inside, children shouted and wept a lot, they were so afraid. I remember that so many children were being tortured.
Because of what is happening in Syria we don’t play any more. I miss my house. I miss my neighbourhood. I miss playing football.
I ask the leaders all around the world to save the children in Syria, save them from all the shelling. Children need medicine. We need clothes, and food. Every child should play and be happy. I am worried about the future. What will happen to us? Where will we go?
“You can’t even imagine what I’ve seen, and what Syria has seen.”
We left Syria because of the shelling. Every night I’d wake up scared. I’d rather die here than die in Syria.
They broke into houses. They stole things from our house, and broke the doors, broke our things. They even stole our food while we were in the basement. In my place, you’d commit suicide from what we’ve seen.
My cousins, a 17-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl, died because of the shelling. It destroyed their home. My cousin’s wife who also died had a newborn baby. Who’ll take care of it? She also had another three young child.
The day my cousins died, the shelling carried on continuously.
As I was leaving to head home, two shells were thrown. The first one destroyed my cousin’s house and the second one destroyed a mosque in the village. I ran, I was so scared. I just hid in a phone booth. Then I went out on the street and called for my mother. More shells fell and I was scared.
The things I’ve seen have made me strong. You can’t even imagine what I’ve seen, and what Syria has seen. When the armed men came for the first time to our house, I was so afraid. But the second time, I was less afraid. I wanted to make everyone around me brave too. My younger brother is actually more brave than I am. When the armed men came to the house, I saw that my brother wasn’t afraid. So the next time, I knew I wanted to be as brave as that. And I was.
I miss my neighborhood the most. And I miss the air. It’s different, not like here. I miss the people, my friends. We used to go walking – there’s a train station that we would walk to each day, I miss doing that.
I love school. We used to hang out there under the trees, whenever we didn’t want to play sports. My cousin and I were the most popular at our school. Our teachers were great. I’m so sad now that I don’t go to school. It makes me want to go back to Syria, so I can get back into school.
My message to world leaders is that children are now homeless and they are losing their parents. Please help us. I am asking those people around the world who can, please help us…
Help Save the Children rebuild shattered young lives
Save the Children is already working in refugee camps and communities both in Syria and in neighbouring countries, helping children fleeing the devastation. They arrive frightened and traumatised. Teams are there to keep them safe, provide basics like food and blankets and most importantly to help them deal with their traumatic experiences. But funds are running low and they urgently need more support. To find out more and to donate, click here.