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Syria: every headline has a human face

I’ve been in the air on my way to Lebanon since yesterday. Hours and hours have passed with me sitting in my chair, getting up occasionally to stretch, sometimes eating a meal when it’s offered. But mostly I’ve been reading. And despite the many hours since I first left Australia, it still hasn’t been enough time to absorb the stories.

I’ve been immersed in testimonies, first-hand accounts of children who’ve fled devastating conflict: a ten-year-old boy describing his fear as bombing shook the ground beneath him, a thirteen-year-old girl who watched armed men force her brother to lie on the ground while they stomped on his back.

She says she then had to leave him behind when he could no longer walk and couldn’t flee with the rest of the family.

An eight-year old boy watching as bombs shattered the windows in his home and pulverised the buildings next door.

A fourteen-year old boy finding body scattered all over the ground following a rocket attack.

A seventeen year old girl tied to a wooden post and beaten for two days, who even now cries out in her sleep, screaming “Leave me alone!”.

These are just some of the testimonies from children and their parents who have fled months of shattering conflict in Syria and sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Into Beirut

The names of towns and villages have been in the headlines for over a year, but for me personally it is only now that the picture comes into painfully clear focus.

Through the generosity of children who have shared their stories, we can see the human impact of this horrible violence.

We can see now with disturbing and unforgettable clarity, how this violence has caused irreparable damage to the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people – innocent children caught up in conflict.

As the plane begins its descent into Beirut, Lebanon, the fasten seat belt alert forces me to look up from my reading. The names of nearby towns and cities flash up on the small screen on the back of the seat in front of me.

Damascus is only 88 kilometres away. Homs, less than 150. I think back to the headlines naming these and other cities, still coming through daily with fresh updates on the latest shelling or bombing.

Now though, after reading testimony after testimony, the headlines are mixed in with hugely personal, vivid accounts from children, and it’s impossible to separate the two.

We must not forget

As heartbreaking as it is to have these horrifying reminders, I feel somehow that this is as it should be – we cannot forget that each headline depicting fresh violence has human faces tied to these events and scarred by them.

Their stories need to be told and the cases documented if the world is to be made aware of what’s really happening to children in this interminable conflict.

The plane hits the ground in a smooth landing and I think of the journey hundreds of thousands have taken into Lebanon or neighbouring Jordan, so different from my easy plane ride in.

Theirs won’t have been a smooth landing, and their struggle won’t be over yet. I only hope I can do their testimonies justice and help provide the attention and action these children deserve.

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