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Opinion, Politics

Children of war

An entire generation of Syrian children faces psychological damage, ever-increasing danger and death.


Written by

Updated: June 25, 2018

Casually skimming through various news websites on my phone last week, I stopped at a news item about a young Syrian boy who had fallen unconscious after a bomb attack. When he woke up in a hospital, he had become blind. The boy must have been six or seven years old. The news also carried a video in which the boy was screaming in terror, as his father held him to his chest trying his best to console him.

Can you imagine the terror of waking up blind? Can you imagine this happening to an innocent young child? The boy was almost my nephew’s age, whom I am very close to. I tried to flush the images out of my system. I had to. I was about to make a presentation.

I am not a very emotionally demonstrative man. But that day when I went back home, I instinctively found myself sitting quietly in a secluded corner. And then I wept. Forlorn, I lay on my bed and closed my eyes for a nap. After about half an hour or so, I suddenly woke up, gasping. I could see my surroundings to assure myself that I had woken up from a bad dream. But that child, he woke up to complete darkness.

These are terrible times for children. They are being raped, tortured and killed as if society, as we know it, has declared war against them — a mad war against the very future of the human race. Being mutilated by mentally ill perverts, maimed by vicious dictators, slaughtered by those who want to “bring democracy” to faraway lands, and butchered by men who do so in the name of faith.

Each of these sadists may have different ideologies and views, but inherently, they all carry a perverse existentialist streak which is apocalyptic. It makes them believe that there is no tomorrow, just a lonesome today. Some want to gluttonise life as much as they can from this today, while others want to destroy it because they think there’s something better waiting for them in the hereafter.

They feel threatened by children because they remind them of a future — a continuation of life and the human race. By killing and maiming children they think they are halting this continuity. Some are doing it because they are deranged (yet respectable, pious members of the sane society). Some are doing it because of those grand sounding “geopolitical” reasons, in which supposedly a devastating war would end a dictatorship and herald a utopian democracy. Some are doing it because they don’t want to let go of power. They are scared of a different future; a future without them at the helm. Some are doing it because they believe the Almighty has sanctioned them to go on killing sprees so that their places in paradise are confirmed.

The day after I watched that tragic video, I saw on my Twitter timeline, a journalist colleague exhibiting a lot of patience and tact while trying to engage with a Twitter handle that claimed to exhibit a deep love for Pakistan’s armed forces.

He (or she) was suggesting that it was wrong of the government and military of Pakistan to have gone to war with the extremists because the extremists were not anti-Pakistan.

Emotionally ravaged by the video that I had seen — and still remembering stories about how during a suicide bombing at Lahore’s Moon Market some years ago, children holding their parents’ hands and infants in their mothers’ arms were simply blown to pieces — I wanted to snap at the person tweeting such convoluted claptrap.

I wanted to tell that person that it was narratives such as these that not only tried to justify the tragic, gruesome demise of thousands of Pakistanis at the hands of extremists, but eventually led to the extremists attacking and slaughtering over 140 schoolchildren in Peshawar in December 2014.

Had this ridiculously imprudent person who claimed to be a lover of Pakistan military already forgotten about that attack? Or about how the extremists played football with the heads of executed Pakistani soldiers?

In 2013, when a prominent extremist was killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan, then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar actually held a press conference condemning the attack. Opposition leader Imran Khan was not far behind, calling the attack “an attempt to derail peace talks between the state and the extremists.”

Even though hundreds of children had already been killed in suicide bombings, and hundreds more had lost a parent, and, in some cases, both the parents, between 2004 and 2013, yet these two gentlemen and scores of others who were regulars on rabid TV talk shows, just couldn’t stop themselves from gazing at their navels and brazenly concocting reasons in their bid to hold back the military from launching an all-out operation against extremist groups. But Gen Raheel had had enough.

This nation of mine only managed to get the spell of the apologists over it broken by the tragedy of 140-plus students mercilessly killed by extremists in Peshawar. Just imagine, it had to take a tragedy of this proportion for many of us to finally realise how all that convoluted and conspiratorial nonsense barefacedly spouted by the apologists was a sham. By the way, many still hold on to such hogwash.

On the other end, tragic images of children suffering the most terrible effects of war in Syria and Yemen often get overshadowed by the drawing-room and social media debates about “geopolitics”. As if these wars were board games played by men who wanted you to believe that they were the most rational, yet okay about a few thousand children being mutilated by bombs and starvation. Collateral damage. Happens in wars, you know.

A friend of mine who has been gathering data for a book about the number of children killed in extremist terrorist attacks in Pakistan between 2004 and 2014, told me that so far his findings suggest that out of approximately 30,000 people killed in these attacks (civilians and soldiers) over 6,000 were children aged between one and 15. This is a stunning figure in a country which was not officially at war.

When children die, so does humanity. Those killing them know this. And they are doing this because they are not human anymore. They justify their murderous lust through a plethora of convoluted political and theological ideologies. But nothing will stop history from remembering them as nothing more than madmen who wanted to prolong their psychotic presence by killing, maiming and starving innocent children.

Written by Nadeem Paracha 



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Dawn
About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

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