Security conditions in Syria have significantly deteriorated since March 2011, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has tried to stave off unrest with security measures, but protests continue to grow across the country, security incidents and violent clashes are on the rise, reports of human rights abuses are widespread, and refugees continue to flow to neighbouring countries. A recent Arab League mission has been widely criticised and has failed to resolve a conflict which some observers have warned is sliding into a civil war. The Syrian economy has also been hard hit by international and regional economic sanctions and continues to unravel. Working children are among the vulnerable groups that are adversely affected by these developments.
Many children have died and countless more have been injured, orphaned, or displaced from their homes during the Syrian upraising. In Syria, a large number of the protesters are aged between 13 and 16, and the Syrian security forces do not reserve special treatment to adolescents when it comes to the use of force or detention. In all cases, children pay the highest price in the current situation. Many legal and procedural violations are committed against children, without taking into account the fact that they are minors. Children are exposed also to indirect violence through images of murder and aggression on TV.
The loss of the breadwinners of families affected by the crisis forced the children to go out in the streets and work in worst forms of child labour. Thus, the specter of poverty started to threaten them over time, especially in the absence of any humanitarian assistance in the country aiming at providing any kind of social protection to these families.
The situation of the upraising in Syria, affected street children and other children who become orphaned or lost their fathers (killed or politically arrested or disappeared) and were deprived from all forms of care, many of them left education and are working to support their families. In addition may street children and child labourers participated in the demonstrations or worked by providing food and water to the demonstrators. These children faced violence from the police or security forces, and were arrested. Street children could not be referred to the Juvenile Delinquent Centres as they did not have a trial or legal documents, so most of them were referred to homeless children centres.
The street children in Syria are facing many problems and dangers including violence, which represents the bulk of their daily lives, whether of violence between groups of young children, or violence from the society around them, or violence at work.
Families of working children can no longer rely on traditional social safety nets in the form of donations or assistance from extended family and friends because social ties are severed with the community under pressure from the state security apparatus.
The families and children of martyrs and political prisoners constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in Syria today. Thousands of political activists are currently in detention, several hundreds have been disappeared or exiled and nearly 6800 people have died during protests that have swept across the country since March 2011. More people have been killed during the past few weeks than the total dead during the revolution in Egypt – which has a population four times the size of Syria’s.
The Syrian people who have taken to the streets to exercise their internationally recognised right to freedom of expression and assembly in recent weeks have exposed themselves – and their families – to the probability of state-sanctioned retribution in the form of violence, detention, conviction, and exclusion from social security and social rights. It is therefore imperative that any humanitarian assistance package that is adopted by the International communities ensure that the fundamental rights of the families of deceased, detained and exiled political activists are safeguarded.
Humanitarian assistant for the most vulnerable strata of Syrian society, especially children and families of those who have risked all to demand freedom and dignity for their country are needed urgently.
The humanitarian and human rights crisis in Syria reached an unbearable end and it is no longer possible for any human conscience to remain silent towards the mounting violations in the recent period and which culminated in the Mascaras carried out by the Syrian security forces.