Syria is the worst country in the world for the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has commented on a UN Secretary-General’s report on children, considering it a primary source of information on violations against children in Syria through cooperation and partnership with UNICEF’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM).

The UN report indicates that Syria is the worst in the world in terms of the recruitment and use of children.

The Syrian regime and its allies topped the list of violations related to killing and maiming, while the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) came second.

The National Army led the armed opposition factions in child recruitment, followed by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and the SDF came third.

In June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented his annual report to the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict in 2021.

The report highlighted trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children and information on violations committed in several countries, including Syria.

He specified those who engaged in violations against children, namely the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools, hospitals and protected persons connected with schools and/or hospitals and abductions of children.

The UN verified 2,271 grave violations against 2,202 children (1,824 boys, 235 girls, 143 gender unknown). In addition, 74 grave violations against 73 children (58 boys, 14 girls, 1 gender unknown) occurring in previous years were verified in 2021.

In the report, it is noted that attacks or threats of attacks against community and civic leaders, human rights defenders and monitors of violations against children are a source of concern and a strain on the ability monitoring.

While Guterres’ report used the term “pro-government air forces”, SNHR said it would have been better to specifically identify Russian forces, being the Syrian regime’s only ally with air capabilities.

The UN verified the recruitment and use of 1,296 children (1,258 boys, 38 girls), most of whom were used in combat, in particular 1,285 children.

SNHR noted that this figure is higher than that recorded in Guterres’ previous report, which documented the recruitment and use of 837 children in Syria in 2020.

Monday’s report indicated that all factions of the Syrian opposition (the Syrian National Army) were responsible for the highest number of cases of recruitment and use of children during this period, with 596 cases, followed by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham with 380.

The SDF came third in recruiting and using 245 children.