A United Nations report says that children as young as nine years old have been murdered, beaten, sexually assaulted, and used as human shields by Syrian forces during their year-long conflict. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, says an investigation by her staff shows that not only are children not being spared by the conflict, they are actively being targeted for violence, with witnesses saying that children have been placed on tanks and on troop transports to prevent opposition forces from firing on them. More than 1,200 children are estimated to have killed in the conflict since it began last year.
Others claim that children have been placed in detention and "beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions, whipped with heavy electrical cables, scarred by cigarette burns and in one case subjected to electrical shock during interrogations." The U.N. says there have been "grave violations" by the Syrian government since the very beginning of the uprising in March 2011. In March of this year, a witness reported that children were taken from their homes in the village of Ayn l’Arouz and placed in the windows of buses carrying soldiers as they invaded the town.
The report, which covers conflicts all over the world, labeled seven countries as "persistent perpetrators" of violence against children, which means they have been on the list for at least five years. In a recent notorious example, an 11-year-old boy in Bahrain was arrested and detained for a month (and will be placed on trial) for attending an anti-government protest.
The report did also criticize Syria's opposition forces for recruiting children to serve as support workers for fighters on the front lines.
Meanwhile, the violence against all Syria continues to escalate, as the United States accused the government of using attack helicopters to assault civilian areas. The State Department called it "a very serious escalation" and is worried there will be more massacres like the recent slaughters in al-Qubair and Houla.