Children of Conflict: Syria to Kashmir
Sumera B. Reshi
According to the UNICEF, childhood is the time for children to be in school and at play, to grow strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults. At this stage, children should be free from fear, safe from violence and protected from abuse and exploitation. Unfortunately, not all children get this opportunity of having a safe and peaceful childhood. Half of the Syrian children have grown up knowing nothing but conflict. Approximately, five million children require urgent and ongoing humanitarian assistance. At present, there are some 6.2 million people internally displaced in Syria and the 5.6 million Syrian refugees who are homeless. And children in Kashmir needs to be protected from pellet guns, nevertheless, a big question arises, is the world aware of the miseries of these vulnerable children of conflict?
In contested zones, from Syria to Kashmir, children often remain the most vulnerable in the conflict. They are hopeless and homeless. They are the first-hand eye witness to the bloodbath, torture and tyranny of their oppressors. They are mentally and physically sick. These children particularly lack hope, a hope for better tomorrow, a hope for peace.
For example, in Al Zaatari refugee camp, north of Jordan, over 58 per cent of refugees are children aged 0–17 years. Their lives have been turned upside down. School and play is a distant memory. Their childhood is not normal. It is full of inconsistencies and questions. The conflict has snatched their happiness and smile, mainly their future. Without least doubt, the burden of conflict has affected all demographics, especially children, a vulnerable lot. Humanitarian agencies were and can provide momentary help, but they have failed to save the innocence of the children of conflict. These children lack proper education and social protection spaces coupled with the physical and psychological damages. One can see the pain in the eyes of a Syrian girl who lives in Al Zaatari refugee camp in the north of Jordan. The civil war in Syria succeeded in wiping all the innocence from the face of this girl and many like her but it failed to steal her beauty. Even in rags, she is no less than a princess. Alas! The civilized world couldn’t feel pain in her eyes and many more girls.
This story doesn’t end here. Far in another corner of the globe is a tiny region claimed by three key players of South Asia - Kashmir. Baby Hiba Jan is the youngest pellet victim in Kashmir. She was hit by a pellet in her right eye. Hiba may not see ever again through her one eyes. Last year, when Kashmir was on boil over the rumours of the abrogation of Article 35 A, Hiba was hit by a pellet which has made a hole right in the middle of her eyeball.
Last year, Hiba was operated once to stop the bleeding from the eye and will be operated again as per the doctors in Kashmir. The images of Hiba flashed on social media and sparked outrage with many Kashmiris calling it another low in state's anti-militancy operations. India has been using pellet guns against protesters in recent years and this widespread use of pellet has led to an estimated 3,000 people in the region sustaining eye injuries –people in Kashmir call it a ‘dead eye epidemic’.
Since 2010, pellet guns aka pump-action shotgun killed 14 people in Kashmir according to the Amnesty International. As per the Omega Research Foundation, a UK based charity that monitors military technologies, pellet guns are commonly used by hunters. The ammunition is not designed for crowd control, however, for India Kashmiris are not people but a herd of sheep, so using pellet guns is not illegal. The protests, demand for freedom is all anti-national for India but killing the people in Kashmir is permissible as per Indian and humanitarian law. This is another facet of imposed democracy worldwide and Kashmir is no exception. Hate begets hate and violence begets violence. There is no endpoint and the vicious circle goes on non-stop breeding more conflict. If the circle doesn’t end, there won’t be humans in this world. So where is this civilized and uncivilized world heading to?