Children in war: The Innocent Victims
A child can be defined as a person aged below eighteen years old according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). A child ought to take pleasure in distinct and specific privileges. These rights include unlimited rights of association while maintaining relations with both parents. A child needs to access basic needs to ensure they receive special care and protection. Primary education, health care and lack of prejudice and discrimination of any form are also vital rights children ought to enjoy. However, wars have hindered children from enjoying benefits from these rights and freedoms. Historically and presently, children still suffer as they are denied their rights and freedoms while being violated (UNDP, 2004). This dissertation will therefore discuss various forms of abuse and violence inflicted on children during wars among various nations. The focus will be mainly on the adverse effects and impacts wars have on growth, development, and health issues among children. Specific countries in discussion will include Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany.
Causes of Wars
Historical political wars have evolved with regards to causes, magnitude, effects, and how they impact citizens. Accordingly, the number of young and old citizens suffering has been increasing. Recently, the number of civilians involved in war casualties has increased to ninety per cent with the majority being children. Thus, wars have led to brutal abuse, violation and murder of young innocent children victims. The children are exposed into modern conflicts and combats as planned or accidental targets. Religious, cultural, and ethnic groups also manipulate to increase the adverse impacts against children due to war based on hate and aggression. This has led communities and villages to battle from street to street. Consequently, children are exposed to physical, emotional and sexual brutality shattering their lives. Wars therefore undermine the foundations laid to ensure children lead safe, healthy, quality, and peaceful lives. According to Graca Machel, the wars destroy habitats, immobilize nations and break down confidence levels among children (UN, 2009).
It is also referred to as the Syrian Arab Republic. Syria is located in the Middle East bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq. It gained sovereignty in 1946 after being colonized by France. However, the country has continued to experience wars and conflicts coupled with political instability with regards to military coups during the Arab- Israel war. In March 2011, an anti government protest in the southern province of Dar’a was fueled by major civil disobediences. Various regions within the nation suffered from the wars and conflicts commonly referred to as the Arab Spring. The wars were fueled by protesters calling for legalization of political parties as well as for the removal of corrupt government officials. They were also fighting to ensure that restrictive laws allowing detention without charge are repealed. Although Syrian government responded with concessions, it failed to meet and fulfill the demand, affirming president Asad ought to step down. This led to a fluctuation in size coupled with intense protests in the country. Consequently, there was a widespread unrest across major cities in the country (Uenuma, 2013).
The government continued either peacefully or brutally to repress the armed opposition. However, parties were committed towards applying grave war tactics and criminal activities to undermine international legal systems protecting children. Due to such commitment, United Nations affirms the treatment of children has been shockingly grave, heartless, and insensitive. For example, a proliferation of children from Syria has been massacred. The rest have been sexually abused, used as soldiers in combat, or detained illegally. Consequently, they are denied basic civil, human and children privileges and freedoms. For example, children’s rights to schooling and playing are highly violated within Syria. This is mainly because children are abducted, tortured, and denied access to education and maintaining social lives. They are also denied access to humanitarian aid deliberately in order to ensure they are helpless and desperate targets during violent attacks. The state of affairs is further heightened by materialization of Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (Niclas, 2014).
Syria is a deviation of the war circumstances across the Middle East region. The region experiences violent conflicts during which massive children casualties are recorded. This is mainly fueled by engaging children in combat, risking their lives as incidental casualties during cross fires. Conversely, Syria records a higher number than Middle East with regards to abuse and violation of human rights as children are deliberately targeted. Children as young as ten years are detained, tortured, sexually abused, and murdered in Syria. In May 2012, an activist group claimed that more than forty-nine children were killed in Houla massacre. The young defenseless victims had their hands bound by ties as substitute for handcuffs. The activists affirmed that, the mistreatment, violence, and torture against the children were conscious. Consequently, there has been use of children aged as young as eight years as soldiers. They are forced to join combatant dealings. For example, some children are forcefully recruited as suicide bombers a fact witnessed during the Usaid Barho case. Usaid Barho was recruited by rebels from the home town of Manbij in Syria to be a suicide bomber (SCA, 2014).
Young girls and boys aged at least twelve years have also been reported as victims of sexual abuse. According to United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, the young children are continually sexually molested by adults involved in political and civil wars within Syria. The United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict released various reports documenting rebel fighters being forced to watch their daughters being raped. More so, attacks target schools in attempts to rebuff children right to access and gain education. The reports provide firsthand accounts affirming that, the government took part in attacking schools to retaliate school protests. Such violations and abuses have led to a large number of young innocent children being murdered and killed prematurely. Thus, conflicts in Syria have led to loss of over ten thousand young, innocent and premature lives. More so, children exceeding four million lack basic needs. Thus, they greatly require humanitarian aid. Consequently, more than one million off springs are forced to flee the conflict region. As a result, they are forced to be refugees in other countries (SCA, 2014).
Syrian children therefore risk dying and being maimed due to massive use of extremely dangerous weapons. The death rates increase due to lack of basic medical care to treat the injured and wounded children. Other children die from preventable diseases, as they cannot access medical institutions. The health infrastructures and systems in Syria have therefore been destroyed by the conflicts through which the extent of obliteration can be demonstrated based on various facts. Foremost, some Syrian children require their limbs amputated as they lack accessibility and necessary equipment to treat the wounded or injured parts. Second, babies die while being monitored in incubators due to constant power interruptions. More so, there lacks enough, competent, and motivated medical staff to attend and provide the much needed healthcare services. The situation with regards to maintenance of children safety worsens due to difficulty in accessing antenatal delivery and postnatal services. For example, young children suffering from chronic illness and other diseases like epilepsy, asthma and diabetes that can be manageable die. This can be attributed by inability to access and acquire drugs required to treat and manage the healthcare conditions (Uenuma, 2013).
Syria has also started recording high rates of children being abducted. However, the abduction cases and rates have not been properly documented. For example, it is claimed pro government soldiers abducted innocent children and used them as human shields in Baba Amr town. This case was coupled with claims that, children were being denied humanitarian aid. The parties involved are persons mainly involved in fueling wars and conflicts in order to ensure basic social amenities such as water, food and electricity are lacking. Various international humanitarian groups including United Nations also state that, some regions in Syria are unstable and unsafe to take aid. For example, it is extremely dangerous to provide humanitarian aid in Baba Amr due to the presence of bombs and landmines left behind by fighters. Conversely, other areas cannot be accessed as the military has denied residents the right to acquire food and water. As a result, the children residing in such towns are also denied their right to access clean water and healthy as well as safe and quality food (SCA, 2014).
It is also referred to as Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is a country located in Central and Southern Asia bordering Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistani, Uzbekistan, Iran, and China. Afghanistan gained sovereignty in 1919 from Britain. Thus, it has derived pleasure from periods of relative political stability. However, the 1973 coup coupled with the communist coup in 1978 marked the beginning of wars and conflicts. For example, the communist coup attributed to a long destructive battle lasting until 1989. The coup was followed by a series of civil conflicts and wars until the fall of Kabul in 1996 to Taliban. Following the September 2011 attack, Afghanistan was described as a United States supporter. The ally ties coupled with the Anti Taliban Northern Alliance declared war on Taliban. This led to the toppling of Taliban and organization of a democratic system of administration. However, there exist various regions across the country suffering from political and civil instability. For example, the Southern and Eastern regions suffer from the resurgence of Taliban attributing to the unstable peace conditions (UN, 2009).
The Afghanistan wars have also affected children adversely. More so, adults do not know periods of peace. Children are signed up as soldiers by the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Although they fervently refuse, they are threatened, beaten or killed. There are reported cases affirming that, eleven year old children are recruited both voluntarily and involuntarily as soldiers. For example, the Northern Alliance commander was quoted affirming children ought to join the movement’s cause, as it is great. This was aimed at encouraging war parties at recruiting more children through use of force in attempts to fight against the enemy. There was also a widely publicized video of Taliban beheading an innocent and harmless child. Such incidences affirm that, Afghanistan is also guilty of brutalizing and traumatizing children (Neta, 2011).
As a result, there are high rates of child mortality in the country. More than one in every group of five children passes on earlier than their fifth birthday. This is attributed to various factors including lack of water, food, and sanitation. Consequently, healthcare systems and infrastructures in the country are ill equipped. The wars and conflicts prevent supply of equipments, staff, and medicine gratifying nation’s healthcare requirements. Thus, diseases such as polio that maim children cannot be prevented, reduced or treated. Landmines also leave children disabled as they run the risk of stepping on them while playing and undertaking their daily chores. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) also affirms that, child trafficking is witnessed in the country. For example, three hundred cases were reported in 2004. The trafficked children are denied basic rights and freedoms including accessibility to educational institutions. Militias ban education by attacking schools and children attempting to attend (SCA, 2002).
This has led to children partaking in income earning activities including joining the army or doing anomalous jobs. This increases number of children affected by infringement of rights against child labor. Such violations and deaths disrupt family lives impacting children negatively with regards to growth and development processes. Children lacking basic needs are also denied access to humanitarian aid due to the continuous political instability threatening societal and national security. A study conducted by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) affirmed that, children below the age of sixteen years suffer from psychological trauma. Thus, wars in Afghanistan have exposed children to traumatizing events leading to mental deterioration. Such a cycle involving fighters from Taliban and Northern Alliance is therefore fueled when oppressed children grow up as perpetrators of violence. Thus, ignorance due to lack of education coupled with violence and social upheaval ensures Afghanistan generations remain hostile and divided (Neta, 2011).
The republic of Iraq is positioned in western Asia bordering Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. It gained sovereignty in 1932 from Britain. Thus, it has endured a long period of time with relative political stability due under strong leaders strong leaders including Saddam Husayn elected in 2003. However, border disputes started the war with Iran since 1980 until 1988. More so, it invaded Kuwait in 1990 before being ousted in 1991 by United States. This led United Nations to collaborate in attempts to end the gulf war. However, tensions with the United States persisted due to Iraq’s non compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution to end the war. The resolution sought to scrap all armaments of bloodbath and long range military hardware. As a result, United States led the 2003 invasion overthrowing the long serving dictator Saddam Husayn. The military operation lasted until 2011 in order to train and empower the transitional government. Iraq however continues to experience wide ranging conflicts fueled by the growth and expansion of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These conflicts have impacted children adversely (Neta, 2013).
Iraqi institutions are tasked with ensuring legal, physical and social protection measures are implemented to protect women and children. However, they are dysfunctional encouraging slaughter and maiming of children and women. They are also exploited and abused as they are, trafficked, kidnapped, and recruitment into armies. Violation of rights against child labor coupled with gender based violence and deprivation of liberties has also impacted children adversely. For example, children are threatened and forced to accept recruitment into ISIS. Consequently, they are trained to be suicide bombers risking their health and lives. Due to the widespread of Islam teachings, Christian children are either discriminated or pressured to convert to Muslims. If they fail, they are tortured or beheaded (UN, 2012).
The Research Group Iraq Body Count affirmed that, the United States led coalition has led to direct and indirect deaths of children. The rates have been increasing due to air raid by United States attributing to at least thirty nine percent of children deaths. More so, at least forty two percent of children deaths are caused by shelling and mortars during war. Consequently, the widespread poverty, malnutrition, and starvation have increased child mortality. The toxic environments created by harmful, destructive, unhealthy, and risky conflicts due to war also cause increase in congenital birth defects and cancer. The research also asserts that, the situations trigger drought, as water supplies are either contaminated or depleted. A high number of children from Iraq are also amputees due to widespread of landmines (Neta, 2013).
In Al Munthanna and Basra provinces, child mortalities due to landmines are sharply increasing annually. The situation is worse due to intentional killing of children coupled with migration. As a result, poor quality healthcare services are unable to preventable and reduce child mortality rates. The sickly also continue to suffer from either insufficient or inaccessible humanitarian aid from various groups and the government in attempts to reduce starvation and curb malnutrition. Lack of schools and professionals in addition to destruction of schools has also encouraged children to miss many opportunities able to uplift their lives in the future. Orphans are also denied exceptional care encouraging increase of street children. The street children therefore lead lives as refugees in neighboring hindering to develop basic skills. They also lack facilities to assist in understanding and developing positive lessons from the conflicts (UN, 2012).
Drug addiction among young kids has therefore been rampant. The children neither attend school nor have legal procedures allowing them to fend and take care of each other. As a result, they become drug peddlers, users, and enthusiasts. However, high levels of drug abuse can be cited as causes of post traumatic stress disorder due to psychological pain. For example, a girl less than eighteen reasons can show signs of incarceration due to crimes associated with prostitution and sexual abuse. As a result, cases of gang rapes and forceful abortions are also increasingly being reported among girls. A study was conducted by the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists in collaboration with the World Health Organization. It asserted that, at least seventy percent of children from a sample of ten thousand residing in the Sha‘ab section of North Baghdad suffer from disorders relating to trauma. This therefore affirms that, wars in Iraq are dangerous, harmful, and fatal to children (Neta, 2013).
The initial war in Germany was experienced fifty years after the World War II ended. Politicians, journalists, architects, public and private intellectuals among other parties remember the Holocaust. They grieve over Jewish victims from Nazi State. However, they also acknowledge Nazis attempted to kill European Jews in attempts to modernize Germany. This further led to the rise of Cold War. German government acknowledges children are young, hopeful, innocent, and highly targeted parties in need of protection. However, their dreams and childhoods are stolen and destroyed due to wars. For example, the Holocaust destroyed children’s lives as most were threatened and forced to think and act as adults. They were mandated to lose and forget their innocence to survive (Moeller, 2002).
The Nazi are described as hateful, revengeful and destroyers of peace and stability. Conversely, Jews were mainly aligned towards survival while being sympathetic. They had to ensure Nazi’s discrimination on age, gender, and socioeconomic factors neither dominated nor destroyed Germany as a nation. As a result, children and women had to be extradited to ghetto regions and camps to seek sanctuary. Children in their teen years therefore had to mature and think critically measures to increase survival rates within the regions. More importantly, all children had to invent ways to avoid being recruited as slaves, laborers, and sexual exploits. As a result, they had to participate in the resistant movement or risk being forcefully abused and violated. Children from Europe were at higher risks due to different cultural and religious beliefs as well as languages and customs (Moeller, 2002).
Holocaust being a government sponsored systematic prosecution movement lasting between 1933 and 1945. Although Jews suffered greatly, children and women record more traumatizing experiences. Adolf Hitler held the most influential leadership position in Germany. However, he did not protect or prevent war fueled by racial, sexual, religious, and political differences. Consequently, different racial ethnics were greatly in danger. Accordingly, homosexuals had to seek asylum. They were joined by Jehovah Witnesses and Soviet prisoners of wars in order to escape subjugation under the Nazi Tyranny. However, children were still mistreated, abused, tortured, persecuted, degraded, and deported especially Europeans. Their self respect and esteem as human beings was robbed, violated, and abused. For example, they were denied rights to access and gain education while being encouraged to feel racially inferior. The living conditions especially in ghetto were also dehumanizing. They suffered from insufficient supply of food, water, and medical services. More so, children whose parents were killed lacked housing facilities, parental love and guidance. It is estimated that, at least one and a half million children were brutally murdered by Nazi’s. The rest were disabled, starved, slaved, and/or tortured using poisonous gases especially in camps before they could succumb to the physical and emotional abuse coupled with exhaustion. Thus, children suffered greatly in Germany due to war conflicts in the country (Moeller, 2002).
The number of children undergoing such atrocious treatments and trauma has been increasing globally. Consequently, the reports documenting these violations and forms of abuse against the young, innocent, and promising children affirm they attribute toward signs of post traumatic stress and disorders. Disorders include exhibiting self destructive behaviors such as addiction to alcohol, cigarettes and other harmful drugs and substances harmful to their growth and development. For example, a large number of young children aged at least eight years are addicted to smoking as they are recruited to be child soldiers. Consequently, they are bound to suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks coupled with fear and bedwetting. This can enhance their anger and belligerent conducts. Documented cases reveal children can either engage in violent games or develop a phobia against darkness and loud noises. Others can adopt watching news avoiding programs with children content, as they cannot relate. Thus, global governments ought to develop and implement measures aimed at protecting children. They should ensure children lead normal and stable lives in order to grow and develop without suffering from physical, emotional, social, psychological, and mental disorders.
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