More than 11 000 children have died in Syria’s civil war, including 128 killed by chemical weapons in a notorious attack and hundreds targeted by snipers, a British think-tank said on Sunday. The Oxford Research Group, which specialises in global security, said in a new study that there were 11 420 recorded deaths of children aged 17 years and under.
The report, entitled “Stolen Futures: The hidden toll of child casualties in Syria”, analyses data from the beginning of the conflict in March 2011 until August 2013. The think-tank added that, of the 10 586 children whose cause of death was recorded, 128 were killed by chemical weapons in Ghouta, near Damascus, on 21 August 2013, in an attack that the United States and other world powers blamed on President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Syria has since agreed to destroy its entire chemical weapons arsenal as part of a deal to head off US military strikes. The think-tank added on Sunday that 764 children were summarily executed and 389 were killed by sniper fire in the conflict. Explosive weapons have caused more than 70% of the child deaths, while small arms fire accounts for more than a quarter, according to the study.
“What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed,” said report co-author Hamit Dardagan. “Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school; shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured. All conflict parties need to take responsibility for the protection of children, and ultimately find a peaceful solution for the war itself.”
Oxford Research Group added that the number of boys killed outnumbered girls killed by a ratio of about two to one. Those children in older age groups were targeted more often than younger children. Boys aged between 13-17 years old were the most frequent victims of targeted killings. “The data we analysed indicates that bombs and bullets alone ended the lives of ten thousand Syrian children in 30 months of war,” added Dardagan. “The world needs to take a much closer interest in the effects of the conflict on Syria’s children.” AFP
Egypt restricts protests
Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has signed a restrictive new “protest law” that would require Egyptians to seek approval days in advance before organising demonstrations. The law will take effect later this week once the final text is published in the official state register. It gives police wide latitude to use force against demonstrators, which could give the government a pretext for a widespread crackdown.
The law has gone through numerous revisions, but rights groups say the latest version requires protesters to seek approval from police three days in advance, and allows the interior ministry to block rallies that could “pose a serious threat to security or peace”. Election campaign events are subject to a 24-hour notification period in some drafts, and “processions” of more than 10 people are only allowed for “non-political” purposes. Violators could face fines of up to $4,360.
“They could have stuck to earlier versions, where if the interior ministry wants to ban a protest, the onus is on them to go to court and seek a ban,” said Heba Morayef, the Egypt director for Human Rights Watch. “Instead they’ve done the opposite. The end result is that we could see an increase in violent crackdowns on peaceful protests.”
More laws on way
Egypt’s interim cabinet is also debating a slate of other restrictive laws. One would criminalise “abusive graffiti”; another, a vaguely-worded “anti-terrorism” law, could be used to further clamp down on peaceful political activism. The cabinet says the laws are needed to regulate near-daily protests in Cairo and across the country, some of which turn violent.
Authorities last week lifted a three-month state of emergency and night-time curfew imposed after security forces cleared two Cairo sit-ins filled with supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown in July. More than a thousand people were killed in the clearings and several days of unrest that followed.
Many of the ongoing protests have taken place on university campuses, which have become a hotbed of political unrest. One person was killed late Wednesday night in clashes at Al-Azhar University between police and student supporters of Morsi. Protesters accused security forces of firing live ammunition at them; the interior ministry said students threw petrol bombs at police. Daily rallies have occurred since at Al-Azhar, Cairo University, and other schools. AL JAZEERA