"I knew a boy called Ala'a. He was only six years old. He
didn't understand what was happening. I'd say that six-year-old boy was
tortured more than anyone else in the room. He wasn't given food or water for
three days, and he was so weak he used to faint all the time. He was beaten
regularly. I watched him die. He only survived for three days and then he
simply died. He was terrified all the time. They treated his body as though he
was a dog."
These are the words of a 16-year old boy named Wael, as
a new report by Save the Children on the torture of children during the
Syrian uprising. "Almost every child we've spoken to has seen family members
killed," the report, which is the product of face-to-face interviews with
Syrians in bordering countries, states. "
They have seen and experienced things that no child should
ever see, and many are deeply traumatised as a result...The acts described are
consistent, recurring and appalling."
They are also consistent with extensive
reporting from the United Nations and several human rights organizations,
which have detailed the use of torture by President Bashar al-Assad's regime,
as well as its willingness to arrest family members of wanted men in order to
intimidate them into silence.
U.S. President Barack Obama may have had the report in mind today,
when he referred
to the Syrian government in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly as "a
regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings."
Instead of the bland political jargon of most reports on the
Syrian crisis, the Save the Children report is composed of roughly two dozen
firsthand accounts of those who had witnessed, or been the victim, of torture.
"I was tortured with electricity," said 24-year old Mohamad. "The children were
too -- I saw this. We were in the same jail. The guards didn't hesitate -- they
used electricity on their hands, their legs, their backs, their genitals. They
would beat the children until they bled. Many died."
These accounts are important to read. Many of the reasons
given for the Syrian revolt -- sectarian divisions, economic realities, and
political mismanagement -- are all true, but they tend to conceal an important
reality: This uprising is an almost unfathomable venture. Why would a largely
unarmed population initially attempt to resist an army supplied by one of the
world's major powers? What could compel Syrians to keep on resisting after tens
of thousands had been killed, in the face of constant shelling and air
Hopefully, these horror stories will provide a sense of why
the Syrian revolt grinds on today, as it has every day now for 18 months.