Washington Kurdish Institute
April 25, 2016
By: Hanar Marouf
Trapped under a dark sky, barely able to breath, the sound of weeping from every corner, blood on the street, destroyed stores, very crowded – as if the whole world moved to Syria. A face – a pair of round blue eyes and a light skin half covered with a blond dusty hair looked up tentatively, stared into my eyes and said, “I lost my family in the war”. The seventeen year old girl managed to escape Syria with the influx of refugees in 2013 that fled to Iraqi Kurdistan through the Khabur River. She is all alone in Domiz camp in Duhok province, with no remaining family.
This story resembles to many other heartbreaking stories we hear on a daily base. If you, the reader, put yourself in her shoes, how would you cope with the uncertainty of what lies ahead? Which one is more preferable, losing your life or losing your entire family?
“I am afraid,” M.S. said. I heard some noise behind me from two women who live at the same camp, saying, “We will find a man to marry her and protect her.”
According to Human Rights Watch report in 2015, more than 400,000 Syrian children are without schools in Turkey alone, so one can only imagine situation in the rest of the countries hosting them. A future worse than what we witness today in Syria is sure to come if the world ignores the importance of education for these children.
Pictures of children being killed and maimed in schools and playgrounds are everywhere. What will be the future of a child who faces all this stress and violence in his or her most formative years and ends up with no education? Is the rise of terrorist groups to be fought only by bombing and killing, or should the fundamental causes underlying such radicalization also be addressed?
More children inside Syria are being conscripted into combat roles and being killed on the battlefields. Children over 16 years old have been involved in the fighting, but for what? They are brainwashed, and it is quite easy for those around them to prepare an effective path to radicalization where the next step is to spread terror throughout the world.
According to the director of Unicef in the Middle East, last year 400 children were killed in combat. Now the Syrian regime and the Islamic State terrorist organization are recruiting children under the age of 15, the majorities of whom are being sent to the frontlines and are being forced to follow orders. Some of the children are abducted to be used as uniformed fighters maintaining armed checkpoints, and others are subject to forced labor.
There are now 2.8 million children out of school in Syria in addition to those civilians who fled and found refuge in other neighboring countries. According to Unicef, approximately 50,000 teachers have gone missing and more than 6,000 schools have been shut down. The educational system in Syria is significantly deteriorating.
How would a family describe school to a young child who has never felt or experienced classrooms, the smile of teachers, the pressure of exams, the knowledge and the personality they will built inside these little rooms that are full of information. What about those children who were forced to leave their dreams and goals inside the same rooms and let all the motivations to fade away?
Who is responsible for this unspeakable tragedy and brutality? If the world keeps turning its back on the Syrian children, the future will witness more suffering. A generation of children will become a reality. Girls like M.S. will sadly fall prey to early marriage and pregnancy. Lack of availability of schools and teachers will result in many never returning and receiving a basic education.
The Dismissal of Consequentialism:
South Sudan has been fighting and struggling against the Islamists of Khartoum for 50 years, and even after their independence in 2011, conflicts and tensions have not dwindled despite six ceasefire agreements. Bloodshed is everywhere.
During the upheaval in South Sudan, children were neglected. Now only one in 10 South Sudanese children can join school and finish primary school. The South Sudanese admit the fact that they have a lost generation by abandoning education and neglecting the importance of empowering youth. After 50 years of strife, youth are still participating in fights between ethnic groups’ tensions. What has been gained?
According to Unicef, South Sudan has the highest number of children out of school due to the relentless environment of conflict. The Unicef chief of education admitted that South Sudan has a generation of civilians who cannot read and write.
The lack of the emergency response to aiming to provide programs for children in war-torn countries is an serious problem that must be addressed. South Sudan is just one example – many other countries that have faced instability and endured short-sighted strategies that do not address the needs of society. The current situation, the neglect of the educational needs of Syrian children, can only encourage the development of new radicalized generations.
The ability to provide a safer and a more stable environment in order to tackle extremism and combat the dissemination of their radical ideology could be achieved through education. Communities and civil society actors have the role and should take the lead in developing such projects, with a focus on education. Counter-radicalization strategy starts by targeting parents as well as children.
All the countries hosting refugees should consider the importance of education in fighting the expansion of radicalization and in building a more peaceful world. The solution cannot not be achieved only by bombing and use of military force, but rather an effort to teach the coming generation how to promote peace with reason and approaches targeting sustainable, long-term results. Children should never be part of war.
Hanar Marouf is Human Rights activist based in Iraqi Kurdistan. She has a master degree in Politics and International Relations.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and positions expressed by authors and contributes do not necessary reflect those on the WKI.