Regardless of how we characterize the armed conflict that has been taking place in Syria for more than three years between the opposition and the regime, its symptoms are not too dissimilar to the nature of any civil war. A civil war represents the most severe case of self-destruction that any community can be exposed to, the effects of which last for decades after the war ends and are even worse than the effects of external aggression.
They say that the average length of a civil war is between five and ten years if there is no opportunity for an external party to forcibly impose peace. This is a difficult issue in itself because the different sides of the conflict are not always clear, while there is often no strong desire by the warring parties to put an end to the bloodshed. The psychological effects of such wars last for two or three generations—not to mention the material requirements related to rebuilding and the restoration of normal life.
The Syrian crisis started as a peaceful protest with social and political demands, influenced by an economic situation affected by a number of factors, not least drought in rural areas. The domestic intransigence, especially on the part of the Assad regime, and the international reluctance to become directly involved led to the situation escalating into an armed conflict. This armed conflict, in turn, has been infiltrated by extremist organizations on both sides, giving it a false sectarian tone in addition to transforming Syria into the scene of a confrontation of the new Cold War that has emerged in the international arena.
Unfortunately, most of those paying the price in this conflict are the unarmed civilians, the majority of Syrians who are working hard to earn their daily bread. The refugees and displaced, which number in the millions both inside and outside of Syria reflect the sheer magnitude of this tragedy. Some of these refugees have spent more than one cold winder in camps on the borders of neighboring countries that are unable to bear the financial burden of caring for them and rely on support from international and regional aid organizations.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of this humanitarian catastrophe is the UNICEF warning that there are approximately 5.5 million Syrian children who are in dire need of education and psychological support. UNICEF warns that the absence of aid and sufficient attention threatens to create a “lost generation” who will have been denied the necessary opportunities for education and psychological development.
The problem is that these children are the youth of the future—or, to be more accurate, the future of Syria, and the lack of attention and care being shown to them represents an assassination of the future. War does not last forever.
These children are the most psychologically affected by the crisis due to their experience of violence and displacement at a formative age. They are deprived of the most natural human circumstances every child should enjoy, namely shelter, family, going to school, and playing with friends in safety. UNICEF figures show that nearly 3 million Syrian children have been internally displaced, while a total of 1.2 million children have been registered as refugees abroad.
UNICEF is calling for steady funding for three years in order to provide educational and psychological assistance to these children. We consider this investment to be vital for the future, and the only solution to save what can be saved, although the best thing would be to end the fighting and see a return to normalcy.
This generation has paid a heavy price through no fault of its own, and the psychological effects of this violence, bloodshed and displacement will remain with them. We cannot ignore them, and this is the price society pays when a struggle turns into senseless violence that transforms the country into ruins.