The Children of the Gods of War (Part 3): The Lost Innocence of a Generation of Syrian Children


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

[This article contains graphic images that may be disturbing to certain readers.  Parental guidance is advised.]

“The Forgotten War in Syria – The Lost World of Children” [1]

The Displaced Yazidi children of the Syrian War[2]

10 Sep 2022 – This Part 3, of the series of publications, on children in war zones documents the ravaging effects of the 11-year-old Syrian Civil War, on the children and minors, who are the subjects of the fallout from regional conflicts and wars.  This cohort of children are physically and psychosocially impacted by the ongoing war in Syria, growing up as a “Lost Generation”, in a “Forgotten War, often displaced to a foreign country, where their, culture, language, religion, traditions and family values are destroyed and replaced by a totally different Western upbringing.

Years of discontent of the citizenry in Syria, against the Syrian Arab Republic regime of President Bashar Assad, finally erupted into the Syrian Revolution with a civil unrest in Syria which began on 15th March 2011.  This unrest was triggered as part of the wider 2011 Arab Spring uprising, out of discontent with the Syrian government, eventually escalating to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad’s removal were violently suppressed, by the ruling regime.[3]

Bodies of the victims of the Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013.

It is relevant to examine the causative factors for the Syrian Civil War. Although many complicated motives have been advanced to explain the reasons which led to the Syrian war, one event, known as the Arab Spring[4], which itself resulted unbridled authoritarianism; ‎absolute monarchy and tyrannical oppression of the citizenry which resulted in the pro-democracy protests and uprisings, which materialised in the Middle East and North Africa Arab countries, beginning on 18th December 2010 and escalating in 2011[5], challenging some of these regions deeply entrenched authoritarian regimes. This is the most significant trigger for the conflict. The initial success of the peoples rising  led to an epidemic of revolts against the establishment  which led to further regional pro-democracy protests and often violent confrontations with the authorities, who were unwilling to give up their domestic stronghold of grip and power on the civilians of these countries.  Eventually this Arab Spring led to the deaths of 61,000 civilians, as initially reported.  In early 2011, a series of political and economic protests in Egypt and Tunisia broke out. Factors contributing to social unrest in Syria include socioeconomic stressors caused by the ongoing Iraqi conflict since 2003, as well as the most intense drought ever recorded in the region. Minor protests calling for government reforms began in January, and continued into March 2011.[6]

Master Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 years old, when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.  It was February 2011, and Mouawiya Syasneh could never have realised that such a minor act of defiance against the regime, would result in a full-blown civil war. The war, which is still ongoing and has caused the deaths of more than half a million people in Syria, since the start of the war and the present time[7].  Mouawiya’s home city of Deraa, like many other major cities, have been totally ravaged, including sacred places of worship and centuries old historically invaluable archeological sites, by street fighting, shelling, chemical warfare and barrel bombing, killing of innocent civilians including children, elderly and women who are no part of the conflict. The war has left scars which may never heal on the ordinary citizens of Syria.  The conflict has also resulted in the largest mass migration of humanoids into Europe and Turkey, generating new challenges for the west, the emergence of terrorist groups and has created fertile grounds in the development of future terrorist with Syrian children being kidnapped by various terrorist groups who are training them as soldiers to come back with a vengeance of the western powers not too distant future. The war has also caused the decimation of the Yazidi[8] populations, including a cultural and religious genocide[9] whereby they were forced to covert to Islam by the forces of the dreaded Islamic State of Levant and Syria[10].  The responsibility for the emergence of this and other terrorist groups, in the vacuum and anarchy of the war, can solely be placed on the aerial bombings of the region by United States, rationalising its legendary and ill-founded and propaganda motivated, pretext of “war on terror” and consequent resurrection of global Islamophobia.

A general map of Syriam at different stages of the civil war, showing cities and areas occupied by ISIL[11]

Presently, a young man, of 25, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad[12]. His entire life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father, and more importantly, his birthplace, Syria has been changed forever, by his singular action.  The . insightful documentary, by Al Jazeera network, “The Boy who started the Syrian Civil War” offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.[13] Presently, the Syrians are trying extremely hard to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

According to Jamie Doran[14] the Emmy Award-winning producer of the documentary “The boy who started the Syrian war” said Think about it. It wasn’t ISIL, nor al-Nusra, nor any other terrorist group. It was an act of defiance, a moment of youthful rebelliousness, if you like, that led to an uprising which has seen more than half a million people killed and a country torn to shreds.

It wasn’t, of course, the fault of this 14-year-old boy and his three friends who joined him in this moment of adolescent disobedience – a prank which would have enormous consequences beyond their understanding. But when they were arrested by the police and tortured in a most horrendous way, a line was crossed from which there would be no turning back.

When their parents and families arrived at the police station to plead for their freedom, they were told: “Forget these children. Go home to your wives and make some more. If you can’t manage, send us your wives and we’ll do it for you.”

Since then the conflict was escalated, over the past 12 years to genocidal levels. The war is currently being fought by several factions, including the Syrian Armed Forces and its domestic and international allies, a loose alliance of mostly Sunni opposition rebel groups represented by the Free Syrian Army, Salafi jihadist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Tahrir al-Sham, the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces SDF, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The peak of the war was around 2015; violence in the country has since diminished, but the situation remains a crisis.[15]

A number of foreign countries, such as Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the United States, have either directly involved themselves in the conflict or provided support to one or another faction. Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah support the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Armed Forces militarily, with Russia conducting airstrikes and other military operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. They have also deployed special forces and artillery units to engage ISIL on the ground. Since 2015, the U.S. has supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and its armed wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), materially, financially, and logistically. Turkish forces have fought the SDF, ISIL, and the Syrian government since 2016, but have also actively supported the Syrian opposition and currently occupy large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian civil war spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian government traveled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil, with ISIL and al-Nusra also engaging the Lebanese Army. Furthermore, while officially neutral, Israel has exchanged border fire and carried out repeated strikes against Hezbollah and Iranian forces, whose presence in southwestern Syria it views as a threat.[16]

International organizations have accused virtually all sides involved, including the Ba’athist Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, Russia,[17] Turkey,[18] and the U.S.-led coalition[19] of severe human rights violations and massacres.[20] The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis, with millions fleeing mainly to neighboring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.[21] Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting has continued.[22]

The strategies and tactics used by the Syrian forces to quell the rebellion, have been carefully devised.  These include chemical weapons, cluster bombs, thermobaric weapons, also known as “fuel-air bombs”, antitank missiles, ballistic missiles, According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the missiles travelled 650–700 kilometres.[23]

The successive governments of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad have been closely associated with the country’s minority Alawite religious group,[24] an offshoot of Shia, whereas the majority of the population, and most of the opposition, is Sunni. Alawites started to be threatened and attacked by dominantly Sunni rebel fighting groups like al-Nusra Front and the FSA since December 2012.

A third of 250,000 Alawite men of military age have been killed fighting in the Syrian civil war.[25] In May 2013, SOHR stated that out of 94,000 killed during the war, at least 41,000 were Alawites.[26]

Apart from the serious humanitarian crises, mass displacements, the Yazidi genocide, abduction of children and training them as child soldiers, kidnapping of especially Yazidi women and sexual slavery, there is also a converted drive for Kurdish autonomy in Rojava district, which is greatly unacceptable and distressful for Turkey.  According to various human rights organizations and United Nations, human rights violations have been committed by both the government and the rebels, with the “vast majority of the abuses having been committed by the Syrian government”.[27]

According to three international lawyers,[28] Syrian government officials could face war crimes charges in the light of a huge cache of evidence smuggled out of the country showing the “systematic killing” of about 11,000 detainees. Most of the victims were young men and many corpses were emaciated, bloodstained and bore signs of torture. Some had no eyes; others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.[29] Experts said this evidence was more detailed and on a far larger scale than anything else that had emerged from the then 34-month crisis.[30]

The UN also reported in 2014 that “siege warfare is employed in a context of egregious human rights and international humanitarian law violations. The warring parties do not fear being held accountable for their acts”. Armed forces of both sides of the conflict blocked access of humanitarian convoys, confiscated food, cut off water supplies and targeted farmers working their fields. The report pointed to four places besieged by the government forces: Muadamiyah, Daraya, Yarmouk camp and Old City of Homs, as well as two areas under siege of rebel groups: Aleppo and Hama.[31]  In Yarmouk Camp 20,000 residents faced death by starvation due to blockade by the Syrian government forces and fighting between the army and Jabhat al-Nusra, which prevents food distribution by UNRWA.[32] In July 2015, the UN removed Yarmouk from its list of besieged areas in Syria, despite not having been able deliver aid there for four months, and declined to say why it had done so.[33]  After intense fighting in April/May 2018, Syrian government forces finally took the camp, its population now reduced to 100–200.[34]

ISIS forces have been criticized by the UN of using public executions and killing of captives, amputations, and lashings in a campaign to instill fear. “Forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance and forced displacement as part of attacks on the civilian population in Aleppo and Raqqa governorates, amounting to crimes against humanity”, said the report from 27th August 2014.  ISIS has also persecuted gay and bisexual men.[35]

Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions have also been a feature since the Syrian uprising began.[36] An Amnesty International report, published in November 2015, stated the Syrian government has forcibly disappeared more than 65,000 people since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.[37] According to a report in May 2016 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 60,000 people have been killed since March 2011 through torture or from poor humanitarian conditions in Syrian government prisons.[38]

In February 2017, Amnesty International published a report which stated the Syrian government murdered an estimated 13,000 persons, mostly civilians, at the Saydnaya military prison. They stated the killings began in 2011 and were still ongoing. Amnesty International described this as a “policy of deliberate extermination” and also stated that “These practices, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, are authorised at the highest levels of the Syrian government”.[39] Three months later, the United States State Department stated a crematorium had been identified near the prison. According to the U.S., it was being used to burn thousands of bodies of those killed by the government’s forces and to cover up evidence of atrocities and war crimes.[40] Amnesty International expressed surprise at the reports about the crematorium, as the photographs used by the US are from 2013 and they did not see them as conclusive, and fugitive government officials have stated that the government buries those its executes in cemeteries on military grounds in Damascus.[41] The Syrian government said the reports were not true.

By July 2012, the human rights group Women Under Siege had documented over 100 cases of rape and sexual assault during the conflict, with many of these crimes reported to have been perpetrated by the Shabiha and other pro-government militias. Victims included men, women, and children, with about 80% of the known victims being women and girls.[42]

On September 11, 2019, the UN investigators said that air strikes conducted by the US-led coalition in Syria have killed or wounded several civilians, denoting that necessary precautions were not taken leading to potential war crimes.[43]

Another factor was ISIL and al-Qaeda executions.  On 19th  August 2014, American journalist James Foley was executed by ISIL, who said it was in retaliation for the United States operations in Iraq. Foley was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012 by Shabiha militia.[348] ISIL also threatened to execute Steven Sotloff, who was kidnapped at the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013.[44] There were reports ISIS captured a Japanese national, two Italian nationals, and a Danish national as well.[45] Sotloff was later executed in September 2014. At least 70 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian war, and more than 80 kidnapped, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  On 22 August 2014, the al-Nusra Front released a video of captured Lebanese soldiers and demanded Hezbollah withdraw from Syria under threat of their execution.[46]

The Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which was destroyed by ISIL in August 2015[47]

The Bottom Line is that the Syrian War is not only a physical genocide, but also a cultural, heritage genocide and is a direct result of as well as an integral part of the Arab Spring of 2011. It is also the Arab Winter, the spill over of the Iraqi conflict, International military intervention against the Islamic State, the long drawn out America’s War on terror, Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, and the Iran-Israel proxy conflict. This cauldron of belligerent parties, mixed with the Covid 19 pandemic, the economic downturn, the climate change phenomenon, and the rise of terrorism has added misery to the nurturing, growth, nutrition and education of the most vulnerable population of Syrian the children and minors. This experience, over the past 11 years will leave an indelible scar on the future lives of these affected children and minors, wherever these children are relocated in the future.

The Syrian War has created an unprecedent refugee invasion crisis in Europe.  Many citizens of different nations were of an opinion that instead of relocating the refugees all over the world, in countries whose customs and culture is vastly different from their own, the process would never result in the intended goal of assimilation into the host nation, communities.. The newly relocated refugees will always be on the fringes of society and a drain on the social services of whichever country the displaced migrants would be placed in. Instead of that, the best way to help the migrants is for Western governments to work together to set up a safe zone in Syria for these people to be relocated in.

Canada, as a culturally diverse, and the tolerant country is happy in welcoming war migrants, especially the citizens who share similar cultural backgrounds.  However, the patience and tolerance is wearing out over the past 11 years. It is therefore much more appropriate that the conflict in their home countries is resolved rather than relocating then.  Also, worth remembering that the children are “nurtured” and growing up in an aggressive environment and monsters will breed monsters, whereby these war zones are cultivation fields, for future global terrorism.

Military situation in Syria as reported in September 2021:

Syrian Arab Republic (SAA)      Syrian Arab Republic & Rojava (SAA & SDF)      Rojava (SDF)      Syrian Interim Government (SNA) & Turkish occupation      Syrian Salvation Government (HTS[h])      Revolutionary Commando Army & United States’ occupation      Opposition groups in reconciliation

Islamic State

Original – See above map on Wikipedia


[1] Personal quote by author September 2022




















[21] Karasapan, Omer (27 January 2022). “Syrian refugees in Jordan: A decade and counting”. Brookings Institution.


[23] “Iran says it hit targets in Syria with Zolfaghar ballistic missiles – Jane’s 360”. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017.

[24] Behari, Elad (23 December 2011). “Syria: Sunnis Threatening to Massacre Minority Alawites”. Arutz Sheva. Archived from the original on 10 January 2012.

[25] Sherlock, Ruth (7 April 2015). “In Syria’s war, Alawites pay heavy price for loyalty to Bashar al-Assad”. The Daily Telegraph. London.

[26] Karouny, Mariam (14 May 2013). “Syria Death Toll Likely As High As 120,000, Group Says”. Reuters. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013.



[29] “Dutch govt under fire for Syria opposition support”. MSN. 11 September 2018. Archived from the original on 1 February 2019.

[30] “EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime”. CNN. 21 January 2014.







[37] Loveluck, Louisa (5 November 2015). “Amnesty accuses Syrian regime of ‘disappearing’ tens of thousands”. The Daily Telegraph.\







[44] Mosendz, Polly. “ISIL Beheads American Photojournalist James Foley”. The Wire. Archived

[45]Chulov, Martin (20 August 2014). “Islamic State militants seize four more foreign hostages in Syria”. The Guardian.





Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Sep 2022.

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