Understanding the Impact of Attacks on Schools in Syria

Syrian children in old schoolroom destroyed by bullets Syrian children in old schoolroom destroyed by bullets © Reuters/ Muzaffar Salman

27 September 2018

This report by the International Center for Transitional Justice examines the legal and humanitarian implications of attacks on schools in Syria.

The Syrian Civil War has impacted the lives of millions, including children and families. The Save Syrian Schools Project and the UN Secretary General have released reports stating that since the beginning of the war to the end of 2014 an estimate of 4,702 Syrian schools have been closed, damaged or turned into shelters. After the conflict began in 2012, only 57 percent of students in Syria continued on to secondary school, down from 98 percent before the conflict. The Violations Documentation Center (VDC) has estimated that from 2011 to 2016, 19,555 children were killed due to conflict-related violence. Organisations examining the impact of attacks on Syrian school have continuously said that denying thousands of children the access to education is a basic human rights violation, one that needs to be more widely acknowledged.

The destruction of schools by the government of President Bashar al-Assad and other organisations violates the foundations of international law. Studies show that the attacks on schools and the use of schools for military purposes are clear breaches of international law according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Convention of 1949. According to their own 2012 constitution, the Syrian government party is obligated to “protect… childhood, take care of young children and youth and provide the suitable conditions for the development of their talents”.

Although the legal study of the Syrian conflict’s impact on schools is important, it is also crucial to understand the humanitarian side. As a result of the attacks on these schools, children have grown up as a “lost generation”, having known only violence their whole lives and being provided only minimal education. The lack of teachers is also a huge problem as hundreds have been killed and many others have left the country to seek asylum. Circumstances are especially dire in places held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Syrian government must take responsibility and dedicate themselves to providing protection to schools and, most importantly, children, who provide hope to the future of Syria.


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by Ashley Bustillo
Editing by Ellen Barth

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