Archive for category Children

One Syrian family’s story of rebuilding their life

A young Syrian refugee girl slowly makes her way across a pipe over a pile of rubbish in an informal settlement in Fayda outside of Zahle, Lebanon. ©UNHCR/ S. Baldwin

A young Syrian refugee girl slowly makes her way across a pipe over a pile of rubbish in an informal settlement in Fayda outside of Zahle, Lebanon.
©UNHCR/ S. Baldwin

Every day thousands of Syrian refugees pour over the borders of Syria and into nearby countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. For many the journey is tough – in fleeing their anxieties in war-torn Syria they often encounter poverty, torture and death.

But for one family, the support they received from IRCT member Centre for Torture Victims (CVT) allowed them to tell their story. Here CVT recount their journey through rehabilitation. 

The family, who wish to remain anonymous, left behind a comfortable life in Syria because they were afraid for their lives in the Syrian conflict. Their anxieties came from events they all experienced. The children were terrified by almost everything – the noise from planes, fireworks, and even people. They never went outside to play with other children for fear of being hurt. The parents too were scared – scared for their safety, the safety of their home and the safety of their family.

While the parents remained strong, both had depression and sleeping difficulties. Both were witness to some of the most harrowing scenes in Syria, including violent home searches.

Their small home was destroyed and, to save themselves, the family sought refuge in Jordan. It was to be a move leaving them with no money or shelter. One meal a day between the family of four was all they had.

When the family came to the CVT office, the parents only asked for help for their children.  However it was evident that the entire family needed help.

After counselling both the parents and children, their anxieties began to disappear. But it was not until later on in this therapy when the father shared a frightening story he had never told anyone before. He shared an event where he almost lost his life. This experience caused all his physical and emotional symptoms.

In the family home in Syria, government soldiers entered one day and began searching the house. The family were threatened and terrorised before the father was ordered to leave the home. Outside with the soldiers, the father was threatened with death.

Different methods were discussed in front of him and, ultimately, his life was spared. When he returned inside the house the father stayed silent about his experience, and has suffered from nightmares and guilt ever since.

But the support from CVT helped these feelings subside. While these experiences may never be forgotten, the father said that the family felt valued and worthy – something they had not felt for a long time.

Soon the children began to laugh again. They began to play again and this, in turn, eased the anxieties the parents felt.

CVT continues to provide support for the family with counselling. Wounds take time to heal but, thanks to CVT support, this family is able to begin regaining control of their lives.

Rehabilitation, even in a few sessions, can lift the shadow of depression that torture brings.

Story edited by Ashley Scrace, Communications Officer with the IRCT. The original story was written by Laura Takacs and Adrienne Carter, psychotherapist/trainers with CVT Jordan – part of a team of psychotherapists, psychosocial counselors, physiotherapists, social workers and outreach staff and volunteers who travel to refugees unable to access the CVT centre.

You can read the full story here


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New treaty would empower child survivors of torture

School children rally against torture in Sierra Leone with IRCT member Community Association for Psychosocial Services (CAPS). The new treaty creates a mechanism for children to bring their complaints of human rights violations, such as torture, before an international body.

Tuesday, the new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child opened for signature. The treaty will create an international complaints mechanism for children who have experienced human rights violations – the last of the core human rights instruments to gain a complaints procedure.

Importantly, the first 10 states to ratify it will be decisive actors in bringing the mechanism alive, since it will enter into force upon the 10th ratification. This post is an encouragement and tribute to the States that will take the lead in implementing this crucial measure for the enhancement of children’s rights worldwide.

When entered into force, children or their representatives will be able to bring complaints of human rights violations before a committee of international experts, when and if domestic courts fail to remedy violations. This is a major step towards strengthening the rights of the child, and giving children a status as equal rights-holders to adults.

However, is it justifiable and reasonable to make children go through an international complaints procedure for alleged human rights violations? Especially when the process of going through judicial procedures includes a high risk of re-traumatisation? It is genuinely difficult even for adults to overcome the psychological pressure involved in such a procedure, where the victim is required to often continuously re-tell the traumatic event and alleged violation is continuously discussed and requiring for explanations and re-telling the story.

While this holds true, and we can all agree that no child should ever be forced to undergo such procedure without full consent and awareness of the implications of doing so, we must not forget that children, just like adults, are survivors rather than victims and that bringing the wrongs committed against them to justice is crucial for the protection of their rights and future well-being.

In working on IRCT’s project on children and torture, it has become clear that where national complaints mechanisms are ineffective or non-existent, tortured children are left unable to seek redress. Furthermore, we have seen cases where children who are tortured have had to face their perpetrator in court. As a result, they are subjected to repercussions and threats from their perpetrators not to file a complaint.

We must take this opportunity to expose the horrific practice of child torture by bringing it to the international level. We encourage States to sign the Optional Protocol for the CRC, as to provide this much-needed mechanism for children to take up their rights and find justice for the crimes perpetrated against them.

Please see the IRCT’s press release calling on states to sign the Optional Protocol to the CRC here.

Line, a sociologist specialising in human rights, implements the research project on children and torture in Asia.

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