Child soldiers and ‘war crimes’ threaten to destabilize talks on Syria’s alternative to Assad
Several months ago, reports began to emerge that the war in Syria had descended to unprecedented levels of brutality: child soldiers were being used in the bloody fight against President Assad.
The United Nations (UN) investigated and claimed that opposition groups were indeed using children as part of their motley army but didn’t point the finger at specific perpetrators. International non-governmental organization (NGO), Human Rights Watch, asked for more questions to be posed and prosecutions to begin.
Now, new evidence has emerged of the young people engaged in combat on behalf of the opposition. Anti-regime NGO, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, yesterday posted a picture on their Facebook group of a Syrian boy, complete with Kalashnikov pointed to the sky.
The image was of 15-year-old Nour-Eddin Habash, a rebel fighter killed in Qalaat Harem, near Idlib in Northwestern Syria. The photo, uploaded by a pro-opposition organization, was a particularly damning indictment of the behavior of an increasingly desperate set of rebel forces.
This weekend a video emerged appearing to show Syrian rebels shooting a group of captured regime soldiers as they lay on the ground. The UN threatened to label the event a ‘war crime’. And as evidence mounts of these ‘crimes’, international support for the rebels begins to wane.
These revelations could not have come at a worse time for the Syrian opposition, who are meeting in Doha today to try to forge a unified front. After criticism from the United States, the Syrian National Council (SNC) is undergoing a revamp to provide a more realistic opposition for international players to back.
The plans for reform were submitted by Riad Seif, a prominent dissident tipped to lead the transitional government in Syria if President Assad falls. Under the proposal, called the Syrian National Initiative, a 50-member opposition group is to be created including Free Syrian Army representatives as well as political groups inside and outside Syria.
But if the political front of the Syrian revolution cannot get the behavior of their armed wings under control, it leaves little option for an international community looking to support regime change.
Should the international community back the Syrian opposition? Or should they insist on more changes? Tell us what you think below.