Eight-year-old, Syrian Ahmed went from being a carefree boy with a loving family to a gun-toting, cigarette-smoking child soldier living on one of the deadliest streets of the devastated city of Aleppo. In a series of photographs and videotaped interview footage reported by The Telegraph, Ahmed depicts what life is like for large numbers of Syrian children displaced by their country’s civil war.
“I ended up helping my uncle and his comrades because I have no other choice. There is no school. My family is dead. What choice do I have?” he said.
The Telegraph’s Ruth Sherlock explained Ahmed’s circumstances, reporting from Beirut: “Ahmed’s mother and father died in a mortar strike in Salaheddin neighborhood, where his father had been working as a fighter with the rebel Free Syrian Army. Now the only family Ahmed has left is his uncle, a rebel who the boy follows and imitates as he fights against government soldiers.”
Ahmed shows the uncharacteristic mannerisms of a grown man when responding to questions about his place amid the violence.
“There is always something to do here. I am never bored. The fighting has calmed down a lot from last year. We had a lot of mortars, but snipers are still a big problem,” Ahmed said.
“Sooner or later the regime will kiss you with one of their bullets,” he added.
Bullets are not the only worry to civilians in Syria. Regime violence has become more gruesome in recent months with the use of cluster munitions. According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian forces’ use of cluster munitions in residential areas is causing mounting civilian casualties. The organization reported March 16 at least 156 cluster bombs have been used in the past six months at no fewer than 119 locations across Syria.
“Syria is expanding its relentless use of cluster munitions, a banned weapon, and civilians are paying the price with their lives and limbs,” said Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. “The initial toll is only the beginning, because cluster munitions often leave unexploded bomblets that kill and maim long afterward.”
During the last two years, the conflict in Syria has claimed over 70,000 lives and hundreds of schools have been forced to close. Large numbers of boys, mostly from 14 years old, now participate in reconnaissance and weapons smuggling to opposition forces. A whole generation of children has been actively involved in the conflict.