| Adnan Ahmed, 16, had been terrified when he met this Dong-A Ilbo reporter at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan last October. Ahmed, who fled from Daraa in southern Syria, told the Dong-A Ilbo that most schools in Syria had "turned into prisons" after being closed.
Not only adults but also children at ages 4 to 10 are also detained in school prisons. Armed government troops tied children`s hands behind their backs and suspended them in the air to beat them with ropes or steel pipes. The troops ripped out fingernails and toenails from children who were suspected to have joined rebel militias. Some children were even tortured with electric shocks. Ahmed said, "I saw (the troops) cut children`s ears and hung them on the streets so that their parents on the wanted list could see."
The boy`s witness accounts were confirmed by the United Nation`s first report released Tuesday on the dire human rights situations for children in the midst of the Syrian civil war. The U.N. report includes abduction, detention, beating, torture, sexual violence, use of them as human shields and forced recruitment as children troops, which the government troops had committed from March 2011, when the civil war started, to Nov. 15, 2013.
The report, authored by Leila Zerrougui, the special representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Children and Armed conflict, divulged unspeakable abuse of children during the conflict in Syria. The government army beat children with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons, forcing them to tell the whereabouts of their parents or relatives. Boys as well as girls were sexually assaulted, while some were tortured with electric shocks, including to the genitals. Other types of tortures included cigarette burns, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement. The government troops deprived children of opportunities to learn by closing schools and denied them humanitarian help from the international community.
The government troops were the main perpetrators of child abuse during the first two years after the onset of the conflict. Since the second half of last year, however, human rights abuses by rebels have significantly increased. The Free Syrian Army, which is supported by the West, and the Kurds recruited refugee children to use them as human shields. The rebels put pressures on children, who had no opportunities for education of jobs, to join them.
Rebels also killed children. The U.N. reported that in April 2013, a 14-year-old boy was shot to death by rebels with links to al-Qaeda. The Syrian government claimed that rebels had killed at least 130 children. The U.N. estimated that the death toll in Syria has reached approximately 100,000 including more than 10,000 children.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report that children had endured "unspeakable and unacceptable" suffering during the Syrian conflict, urging both the Syrian government troops and rebels to stop abusing children and end indiscriminate attacks, such as terrorism, air raids and the use of chemical weapons, in civilian areas.