Crisis Project is hearing an increasing number of reports that children and schools are being targeted by the Syrian army and security forces. Our contacts on the ground in Syria report numerous child fatalities in and around local schools. There appears to be no substantial explanation for these attacks, so our assumption must remain that these are children that have refused to participate in pro-Assad rallies, or engaged in opposition demonstrations.
Here are a few examples:
In al-Holeh, five children were reported to have been targeted with gunfire outside their school on November 22nd- four of them were killed as a result. Furthermore, the school itself has seen a substantial decline in attendance due to government occupation.
In the city of Hama, Ibn Reshd school has also been beset by security forces in recent days. Crisis Project has been informed that regime-loyal forces entered the school in order to arrest students after a local protest. This school is now occupied by security forces.
In Homs, the Shabiha and regime forces are said to have stormed the school of Al-Bayad neighborhood, where they raised their weapons and terrorized students who are all 15 years or younger.
In the city of Deir al-Zour, 15 year old Mohammed Mulla Eissa, was reportedly shot in front of classmates by security forces upon refusing to join a pro-Assad rally. It is also reported that when security forces realised the first bullet did not instantly kill, the commander issued a direct command: “Shoot him again to make sure he dies.”
Resolute across Syria
Despite increasing intimidation and violence administered by security forces upon the younger generation, tenacious students and children seem determined in their efforts to involve themselves in the country’s popular uprising. Excitement and optimism continue to pervade a community wracked by daily threats to their lives. This persistence was illustrated by a demonstration held on the 24th November in Al-Sabouniya neighbourhood in Hama by the students of the girls’ school of Um Al-Shahid. Female empowerment appears to be a recurring theme in the nationwide protests.
The repression of the Syrian opposition has now reached a point of unprecedented brutality on the part of the security forces, and the international media needs to recognise this. It is unclear how much control President Bashar al-Assad has over the army and Shabiha, but it is clear that everyone is being targeted in their efforts to regain stability through fear mongering.
The Free Syrian Army has stated that their primary objective is to protect the protesters from its governmental counterpart, but the increasing numbers in the former, and the apparent reluctance of the latter to stand down, may well lead to civil war.
By Luke Errington-Barnes and Michael Everard, 25.11.11.