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Two million Syrian children tortured, raped and shot in national upheaval

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Two million children in Syria have suffered malnutrition, disease, early marriage and severe trauma during their nation's two-year long civil war. By far the greatest victims of their country's conflict, the nation's children has suffered "layers and layers of emotional trauma," according to the Save the Children agency.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a bloody conflict that has already claimed 70,000 lives, "This is a war where women and children are the biggest casualty," chief executive Justin Forsyth told reporters.

He shares a story about one Syrian youth. "His friend was shot through the heart. But initially, he thought he was joking because there was no blood. They didn't realize he had been killed until they took his shirt off," he said.

Forsyth also relates how he met one child who said he was in a prison cell with 150 people, including 50 children.

"He was taken out every day and put in a giant wheel and burnt with cigarettes. He was 15. The trauma that gives a child is devastating."

Save the Children also cites new research carried out among refugee children by Bahcesehir University in Turkey. According to the report, two thirds of children surveyed said that they had been separated from members of their families due to the conflict and a third said they had experienced the death of a close friend or family member.

"All these children tell you these stories in a matter of fact way and then you realize that there are layers and layers of emotional trauma there," Forsyth said.

Syria's civil war started with peaceful protests against the iron-fisted rule of President Bashar al-Assad. His forces shot at protesters and arrested thousands and soon the revolt turned into a civil war. Rebel forces now control large swathes of Syria.

In the resulting chaos, millions fled their homes for safer ground or neighboring countries. Save the Children says 80,000 people are living in barns, parks and caves while children struggle to find food to eat.

Refugees say that Assad's soldiers are directly targeting children. The agency claims that some young boys are also being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields, bringing them close to the front line.

Rape is also being used to deliberately punish people, Forsyth says, adding that it is under-reported due to the sensitivity of the issue, especially among conservative communities.

"In most conflicts, over 50 percent of rapes are against children. And I am sure that is the case in this conflict too."

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