17 Dec 2014

Children: victims of war

The deliberate targeting of so many children has caused outrage across the world. And it’s part of an increasing – and horrifying – trend.

They were the softest of targets. One hundred and thirty two children among the 141 killed in the Taliban’s school compound massacre. As a strategy, it is designed to grab headlines and inflict maximum shock value.

“Killing children and targeting them has moved from collateral damage to a deliberate action of warfare,” said Rob Williams, chief executive of the charity War Child.

“So we see that now in Pakistan, we saw it also in the Central African Republic, we see it still in Syria and now in the conflict in Iraq.

“If you really want to terrorise a population, a very effective way to do that is to get them worried about what’s going to happen to their children.”

The UN children’s fund has declared 2014 a devastating year for the 15 million under-18s caught up in violent conflict.

Getting worse

So why is it getting worse?

Well, for one thing, the armed jihadist groups, such as the Pakistan Taliban, Nigeria’s Boko Haram or the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq have signalled that they are prepared to cross lines and sew mayhem and murder as never before.

Jocelyn Avigad, a psychotherapist from the charity Freedom from Torture told Channel 4 News: “The experiences are imprinted in their memories. They don’t go away easily.

“They don’t go away ever. So they’ll be in nightmares, waking up screaming at night feeling that there’s no way out. Terror, absolute sheer terror.”