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Children severely tortured in detention centers / schools used as detention centers - 1 views

  • Syrian army and security officers have detained and tortured children with impunity during the past year, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 12 cases of children detained under inhumane conditions and tortured, as well as children shot while in their homes or on the street. Human Rights Watch has also documented government use of schools as detention centres, military bases or barracks, and sniper posts, as well as the arrest of children from schools.
  • “Children have not been spared the horror of Syria’s crackdown,” said Lois Whitman, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Syrian security forces have killed, arrested, and tortured children in their homes, their schools, or on the streets. In many cases, security forces have targeted children just as they have targeted adults.”
  • Some of the arrests took place in schools. “Nazih” (not her real name), a 17-year-old girl from Tal Kalakh, told Human Rights Watch that in May 2011, security forces entered her school and arrested all the boys in her class, after questioning them about the anti-regime slogans painted on the school walls.
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  • Ala’a,” a 16-year-old boy from Tal Kalakh, told Human Rights Watch that Syrian security forces detained him for eight months, starting in May 2011, after he participated in and read political poetry at demonstrations. He was released in late January 2012 after his father bribed a prison guard with 25,000 Syrian pounds (US$436). During his detention he was held in seven different detention centres, as well as the Homs Central Prison. Ala’a told Human Rights Watch that at the Military Security branch in Homs:

    When they started interrogating me, they asked me how many protests I had been to, and I said “none.” Then they took me in handcuffs to another cell and cuffed my left hand to the ceiling. They left me hanging there for about seven hours, with about one-and-a-half to two centimetres between me and the floor – I was standing on my toes. While I was hanging there, they beat me for about two hours with cables and shocked me with cattle prods. Then they threw water on the ground and poured water on me from above. They added an electric current, and I felt the shock. I felt like I was going to die. They did this three times. Then I told them, “I will confess everything, anything you want.” 

  • A number of adult detainees and security force members who had defected and who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch confirmed the presence and torture of child detainees in facilities across Syria. “Samih,” a former adult detainee held in a political security facility in Latakia, told Human Rights Watch that children were subjected to worse treatment than adults, including sexual abuse, because they were children.
  • The government has used schools as detention centres, sniper posts, and military bases or barracks. “Marwan,” from the Insha’at neighborhood in Homs, and other Homs residents told Human Rights Watch that the army attacked Bahithet Al-Badiyah school on Brazil Street on November 4, and that military security forces then turned the school into a detention centre. Local activists also told Human Rights Watch that military security turned Al-Ba’ath elementary school in Joubar, another Homs neighborhood, into a military base and detention center in late December.
  • Children also told Human Rights Watch that their schools closed in 2011 due to violence, or that it was no longer safe for them to go to school. “Mohammed,” a 10-year-old boy from Homs, said, “I went to school for only one day [this year]. The teachers just gave us the books and told us not to come back. The road to school was not safe because of snipers.”
  • “Schools across Syria are closed because it’s too dangerous for students to attend, or because the military thinks schools are better used as detention centres than educational establishments,” said Whitman. “How long will Syrian children pay the price for the violence around them?” 
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