What do you see when you imagine how an 8 year old boy would be? Certainly not this way!
Meet Ahmed, the AK-47 toting, cigarette smoking, symbol of the Syrian Rebellion, one of the youngest ‘volunteers’ for the Syrian Free Army.
Hailing from Aleppo’s Salaheddin district, the front line of Syrian Rebellion, Ahmed used to be a carefree boy with a doting family. Until one day his parents were snapped up by the jaws of death – a mortar strike in the same district, where his father used to be a fighter for the Syrian Free Army. Ahmed’s uncle, who is also a rebel in the same army, is his only surviving family. Ahmed idolizes and imitates his uncle and is following his footsteps in becoming another rebel soldier for the Syrian Free Army.
No. Innocence murdered in cold blood!
A Human Rights Watch Report has raised alarm on the fact that hundreds of children in the worst affected areas of the conflict between the Bashir Al Assad led Ba’ath Government and the rebel forces are being trained to participate actively in the war. The report goes on to say that young boys, usually 14 years and upwards (sometimes even less) are being trained to carry out reconnaissance missions and are being forced to act as mules to smuggle arms and munition to opposition groups.
In a conflict that has taken over 120000 lives by the official count (the unofficial count is much higher), there seems to be no place for education amidst the trauma of loss of loved ones. Hundreds of schools have been forced to shut down.
The Syrian conflict has robbed the country of an entire generation of children.
Even when (if!) the conflict comes to an end, the trauma and the stress of living life in the fear of death every single day, is not going to evaporate into thin air. These wounds will not heal easily. The cynicism that has already set in the minds of these children, will stay.
It is not easy to say what is more unnerving, the words that roll out of Ahmed’s tongue, or his matter of fact tone in which he speaks.
“There’s always something to do here. I am never bored. The fighting has calmed down a lot from last year, we had lots of mortars, but snipers are still a big problem.”
Then he adds these chilling words, “Sooner or later the regime will kiss you with one of their bullets.”Â For a child whose favorite pastime used be riding the bicycle, the transformation of Ahmed into a cynical nonchalant soldier is scary to say the least.
One last thing.
The video footage used to write this piece is more than a year old. On scouring the internet for Ahmed’s latest news, no results have come up. One can always assume the worst.
Then again, sometimes, hopefully this time, no news is good news.