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-        “… And there was a protest, and three people were killed!”

-        “No! They were more than three!!”

I was passing by two forth grade pupils who were walking back home from school in a street in Damascus, when I heard this part of their conversation. At that time, the Syrian revolution had entered its third month. And the Syrian people kept protesting PEACEFULLY everyday demanding the president to step down and hoping to topple down the whole regime.  Many Syrian People have been killed by the regime’s security forces, snipers and shabeeha (thugs), and a huge number of them got arrested.  Though the Syrians who participate in the revolution are of all ages, the children of Syria play a special role in the Syrian revolution of freedom.

After the Tunisian people revolted against their regime and forced their president to step down, people of other Arab countries got inspired and encouraged. It was finally possible to get rid of the dictator! Egypt and Libya followed Tunisia, and Syria eventually caught up with them. So, the Arab spring shined in many countries and called for freedom. It was freedom of all kinds of dictatorships and oppression. The Syrian regime proved that it is the worst among the Arab regimes in terms of the brutality it faces the people with, and the security fist it has to the extent that Syria was known as “The Kingdom of Fear”. In short, the suffering of the Syrian people was beyond imagination. However, the direct reason that started the revolution in Syria was the Syrian children.

A child from Daraa was tortured by Assad regime

In the southern city of Daraa, some children wrote on one of their school walls the chants for freedom they hear on T.V. when watching the protests of Egypt, such as “Freedom” and “The people want to topple the regime”. At 1:00 am, the security forces broke into the houses of 25 pupils of that school and arrested them! They were just 11 years old. That happened only a few days before the date of the revolution set by the revolution facebook page that is 15-3-2011. The parents of the pupils tried to see their children but in vain. Chief of Intelligence Atef Najeeb told the parents to forget about their children among other verbal abuses. And here started the uprising. Later on, the pupils were released and went back home after being tortured; they were beaten, their finger nails were pulled out and their faces were burnt with cigarettes.

Hamza Alkhateeb

The children of Daraa, and all the children who paid the price of freedom by getting tortured and killed became heroes in the eyes of the Syrian children and and adults as well.  Thus, they became an example to all the Syrian people. Some became icons and symbols of the revolution, such as Hamza Alkhateeb; a 13 years old boy from Giza in Daraa. He was shot, burnt, and tortured to death by Assad security forces while being detained for a month. Hamza’s body was mutilated; he was tortured by electric shock devices and whipped with cable. His neck was broken and his genitals were cut off. Killing Hamza this barbaric way was considered a crime against humanity and shocked the whole world and the conscience of humanity. But, that wasn’t everything. Hamza’s close friend Tamer Alsharee faced the same destiny and in the same way.

Ibrahim Alsheibany, 10 YO, was shot by a sniper in Damascus

 

Syrian children were slaughtered by regime's thugs in Homs

In one of his speeches, Assad accused the children of Syria of being outlaws, and considered them as his enemy. After that speech, many children got killed. According to the Syrian Revolution Martyrs Database, 691 children, under the age of 16, were killed by the regime’s forces from 15-3-2011 till 27-2-2012. The site confirms that 540 of them were males, and 151 were females. More than half of the children martyrs were killed in Homs. As for the way they were killed by: 96 of them were shot, 14 were killed by artillery shelling, 14 were tortured to death, and 3 were slaughtered. Those are only the documented cases. Moreover, a big number of children and teenagers got arrested and many of them are still in jails under the fear of being tortured. There are 437 children among the documented detainees; 430 of them are boys, and 7 are girls.

Ola Jablawy, 3 YO, was shot by a sniper in Lattakia

The Syrian children suffered also from the regime’s terrorism and horror towards them. This happens when the regime’s security forces, snipers, and shabeeha (regime thugs) shoot at the protesters. So the children participating in protesting get killed, wounded or terrified. An example of that is Ola Jablawy, a 3 years old girl, who was shot in the eye by a sniper in Lattakia. In addition, children get hysterical and very disturb psychologically in such cases, especially when the regime army shell their cities; houses, hospitals and schools by heavy artillery and air force.

Syrian refugee children

All the crimes committed by the regime forced the Syrian children to take a hostile attitude towards it. This is because it kills, tortures and arrests, at least, one of their family members, friends, or other kids. Besides, the regime’s forces occupy their schools and turn them into detention centers! In addition, the children of the Syrian refugees suffer very difficult conditions, just as their families do, while and after escaping to the neighboring countries.  This, also, cost them leaving their schools. Moreover, the pupils in the rural and cities where the uprising is at its peak, had to stop going to schools. This could have very negative effects on the primary school pupils.

Leave! want to go back to our schools..the sign says

From the moment the revolution started, the protesters tended to compose revolution songs and sing them while protesting. It was obvious that the children learnt these songs more than the adults, and kept singing them more and more. We can notice that in the students demonstrations that come out from their schools or the ones that take place in their schools. Furthermore, even children who are under the age of six learn the revolution slogans, chants, and songs and repeat them daily. This is exactly what my friend told me about her 4 years old girl who used to watch the protests that take place under her balcony.

 

In conclusion, the Syrian regime tried to force the Syrian children to be loyal to it, especially in schools, by different means. But, it didn’t work. Children are quite aware of the fact that the regime arrests, tortures and kills men, women, and even children. So they took and still take an important part in the revolution. Having a new generation absorbing the meanings of freedom and dignity while growing up will definitely be the guarantee of a new regime that is free from any kind of dictatorships. Affecting the revolution and getting affected by it, Syrian children are absolutely an essential element of the Syrian revolution of freedom.

Dandana Shamiya

Syrian writer and blogger

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