UN Reports Syrian Militant and Sexual Abuse of Children

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The United Nations has published a report revealing the extent of child abuse occurring in Syria from both opposition and government forces, allegations that the Syrian government have denied, insisting that solely opposition forces were guilty of such crimes. Specifically, the use of child soldiers, the death and injury of many during conflicts, and sexual abuse and violence were listed in the report.

The information for the report was gathered over the course of three years, between March 1, 2011 and November 15, 2013, though difficulty in gathering information was noted due to a “lack of access.” It was published in the wake of a difficult Geneva II Syrian peace conference, which ended Friday. “I sincerely hope that the second round of negotiations will begin as planned on 10 February,” said the United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, expressing his hope that both Syrian delegations would attend the second round as agreed upon and go into them “with greater seriousness and urgency.”

The report names a long list of Syrian militant groups and organizations both within and outside government militia as violators of human rights in regards to children’s involvement and victimization throughout the conflict. Included in this list are the Syrian Armed Forces, forces associated with the government, but not directly related, such as Shabiha, the Free Syrian Army, the National Defense Forces, Syrian Kurdish armed groups, and many others.

A major problem associated specifically with Free Syrian Army (or, FSA) and Syrian Kurdish armed groups was the recruitment of children in the conflict. According to the report, boys between the ages of 12 and 17 were used by FSA for purposes ranging from combatants involved in attacks, to armed checkpoint guards — with an older male often involved in recruitment process. Both boys and girls were found to be used as “cooks, porters, cross-border smuggling of arms, lookouts, spies and messengers, as well as to clean weapons and prepare and load ammunition.

Cases were also document of boys and girls being used by FSA in cross border and cross-line medical evacuations for the delivery of medical supplies to field hospitals and to assist emergency and trauma health services, which put them at high risk,” it noted. The report also listed the Syrian Kurdish armed groups use of 14 to 17 year olds, both male and female, in military support and combat positions, with anecdotal examples for each.

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