In a report by the UN Human Rights Council covering the period from September 2011 to the end of October 2019, it was stated that ‘children’s right to life has been blatantly denied by all parties to the conflict', further noting that a very large number of children were killed, maimed and injured. Another report from June 2019 stated that throughout 2018 air strikes, barrel bombs and cluster munitions have resulted in 1 854 child casualties [Targeting, 12].
Sexual violence against children perpetrated by different parties to the conflict has been a persistent issue throughout the conflict. Government forces used child rape as a weapon of war and were systematically abusing the children of opposition figures in GoS prisons, at checkpoints and during house raids, with impunity. Children were detained with adults and exposed to exploitation, torture, violence, including sexual violence perpetrated by prison guards, torturers and other prisoners [Situation of women, 2.4; Actors, 2.2.6, 2.4].
Other examples of violence against children include the internment of thousands of wives and children of ISIL fighters in makeshift camps under deplorable living conditions in areas under SDF control. There were also reports of abductions of women and girls by different actors and motivated by various reasons, including organ trafficking, with children being especially affected [Situation of women, 1.1.3; Actors, 3.3].
According to researchers, domestic violence was common in Syria even before the civil war and not criminalised in Syrian’s legislation. The changes in the traditional ways of family life and gender roles might have resulted in further violence against women and children, without effective legal protection mechanisms. A lack of services to support survivors of domestic violence is also reported [Situation of women, 1.1.3].
Generally, effective protection against violence is limited and enforcement is either weak or non-existent (see profile of women, in particular under subsection 2.12.1. Violence against women and girls: overview).
Acts of violence against children could be of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (sexual assault, abduction, torture, killing).
Not all children face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution in relation to these forms of violence. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: family members perceived to be involved with the opposition or anti-government armed groups (see 2.1. Persons perceived to be opposing the government, 2.3. Persons with perceived links to ISIL), poor socio-economic situation (e.g. residing in IDP camps), social status (the risk of sexual violence and exploitation is higher for separated and unaccompanied children and for children in female-headed households), area of origin or residence, lack of documentation, religion, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion (e.g. in case of perceived link to an anti-government armed group), religion (e.g. when persecution is by extremist groups), and/or membership of a particular social group (see examples below).
See other topics concerning children: