The Syrian civil war has now created more than 3 million refugees, the United Nations reported last week. (If anything, that tally is too low, as the U.N. only counts people who have officially registered as refugees.) U.N. officials are now calling this “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”
Jordan has taken in 608,000 Syrian refugees, Turkey has 815,000, and Lebanon has accepted approximately 1.1 million, according to the U.N. Many have also escaped to Iraq, Egypt, and other countries across the Middle East. But hidden beneath this mammoth figure lies an even sadder story: More than half of these refugees are children. That is a startling tragedy. An entire generation of Syrian children have been brutalized by violence, driven from their homes, and forced to bear the weight of a war they did not start.
While interviewing refugees in Jordanian camps and Lebanese tent settlements last month, I was struck by the psychosocial trauma these kids have endured. When I asked children what they remember of Syria, they almost always spoke of war and death.
Thirteen-year-old Mohamed, for example, told me a story of playing outside when a rebel sniper shot his nephew in the head. When his uncle rushed to the body, the sniper shot him in the face, killing him too. A Syrian military tank later ran over both corpses. The fearful community was forced to watch them rot from a distance. Mohamed couldn’t make eye contact with me when we spoke, and refused to talk to me unless three friends were present.