Workshop on Rehabilitating Children Recruited by Armed Groups

DAMASCUS, (ST)- The Syrian Commission for Family and Population Affairs in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) yesterday held a workshop on children rights plus child recruitment and ways to rehabilitate affected children and integrate them into society educationally.

Participants in the workshop, titled "how to deal with recruited children", stressed the importance of reactivating civil society work as to face the negative impacts of the crisis on the entire society, provide protection to children, prepare awareness programs and rehabilitate the children who were recruited in the areas held by the armed terrorist groups.

 Head of the Syrian Commission for Family and Population Affairs Akram al-Qesh said the workshop aims to build the abilities of workers in the field of child protection to know how to deal with children victims of recruitment.

He added that any strategy aiming to tackle the issue of child recruitment and their participation in combat activities should be built on understanding the reasons behind recruitment. He pointed out that the commission focused on several child relating issue, including lack of education and leaving the school, child labor, begging, and violence.

Al-Qesh hailed the role that can be played by civil society associations through participating in social fieldd work in coordination with the commission.

  On her part, Rana Khlefawi, Director of family issues section at the commission, said "recruiting children means letting them take part in combat operations alongside the terrorist groups either compulsorily or voluntarily and directly or indirectly."

She added that the Child Agreement of 1990, signed by Syria, contains four aspects: children's right in life, development, indiscrimination and participation, pointing out that last March, the commission opened the family protection unit to receive women and children who are victims of violence and recruitment.

Dr. Yaser Kalzi, a human rights expert, talked about compulsory recruitment through kidnapping individuals or recruiting them under threat and violence, stressing that child recruitment is one of the worst forms of child labor according to the International labor agreement.

Kelzi pointed out that the Syrian laws affirm that children are victims that should not be exposed to criminal liability, rather work should focus on rehabilitating them.

Roula Bash Imam, a lawyer and head of a civil society association, stressed the importance of making initiatives as to reach children who were recruited by armed groups in the areas liberated later by the Syrian army and to disseminate awareness about children rights and the need to protect them.

On her part, Director of the Psychological Support Center at "In'ash" Charity Zubaida al-Ahmar asserted the importance of providing psychological and social support to victims of child recruitment as a first step to rehabilitate them and integrate them into society.

Hamda Mustafa