Safe no more: students and schools under attack in Syria
More than two years into Syria’s brutal conflict, children have lost months or years of education. One in five Syrian schools nolonger functions, with thousands of schools destroyed, damaged, or sheltering those fleeing violence, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Both government and opposition forces have converted many more into command posts, barracks, or detention centers. Safe No More: Students and Schools under Attack in Syria documents how government forces have attacked schools, endangered students, and otherwise obstructed their right to education. In combat zones, the Syrian armed forces have committed apparent laws of war violations by attacking schools that were not being used for military purposes. Human Rights Watch documented government ground and air attacks on four schools, including three still conducting classes. Government forces and shabiha, or pro-government armed groups, have deployed in schools and used them as bases, barracks, sniper posts, and detention centers. Opposition armed forces also have used schools for military purposes. Teachers and state security agents interrogated students at school about their political beliefs and activities, in some cases subjecting them to beatings or other abuses, witnesses reported. Government forces and shabiha assaulted and at times fired upon students during anti-government protest marches that they organized at the end of their school day. This report draws on more than 70 interviews, including with 16 students, 16 educators, and 22 parents of schoolchildren, all of whom fled Syria between March 2011—the beginning of the uprising—and December 2012.