Children escaping the city of Raqqa in northeastern Syria are in urgent need for psychological support to help them deal with the trauma that was caused by years of living under ISIS rule culminating in a ferocious bombing campaign on the city, Save the Children said on Monday.
“It’s crucial that the children who’ve made it out alive are provided with psychological support to help them deal with the trauma of witnessing senseless violence and brutality,” said the NGO’s Syria director Sonia Khush.
“Raqqa’s children might look normal on the outside but inside many are tormented by what they’ve seen. The children of Raqqa didn’t ask for the nightmares and memories of seeing loved ones die right in front of them,” Khush added.
Children described a life of unthinkable brutality, having witnessed executions and explosions at close quarters over several years. Beheadings and bombs have become a part of normal life for Raqqa’s children.
The US-based charity warned the psychological scars these children carry could take years, even decades, to heal.
The charity group interviewed children who recounted dreadful stories of life under ISIS rule and how the extremist group used them as human shields. They also recounted seeing homes being bombed and neighbors being killed in airstrikes.
Save the Children went on to say that “recent reports of airstrikes killing dozens of civilians means families are facing an impossible decision: stay and risk being bombed or leave and risk being shot at by ISIS or stepping on a landmine.”
Civilians in ISIS-held areas live in constant fear as members of the extremist group terrorize them by brutal executions and daily punishments such as cutting off limbs and whipping.
Raqqa province witnessed an exodus of civilians after the militias of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the launch of an offensive to capture Raqqa city from ISIS. It is estimated that half a million people have fled their homes since June 6. The United Nations last week called for a pause to the fighting in Raqqa to allow the safe the evacuation of around 25,000 people who are still trapped inside the ravaged city. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)