May 22 2013

Syria: Hands off the SOS Children’s Village

SOS Children’s Villages has launched an urgent appeal to all parties involved in the on-going war in Syria and stakeholders in neighbouring countries: Keep your hands off the SOS Children’s Village in Damascus! The SOS Children’s Village situated in western Damascus (33°33'32.61" N, 36°12'29.97" E) has been in the line of fire on several occasions. Over one hundred children, 20 SOS mothers and 30 support staff live there.

Children caught in the line of fire in Syria- Wilfried Vyslozil © SOS Archives
Children are caught in the line of fire in Syria warns Vyslozil © SOS Archives

22/05/2013 – “In Berlin, SOS Children’s Villages has urged the German government to speak out for the safety of the village to the Syrian government and the governments of neighbouring states. The SOS Children’s Village in Damascus is continually caught in the line of fire between government troops and rebel forces.

The village is located in a valley on the road that connects Beirut and Damascus; in a position where government troops are located on one side and rebel forces have taken up positions 200 metres away on the other side.

Children heavily traumatised

"Violent confrontations occur in the immediate vicinity with increasing frequency. No one is permitted to leave the village after five pm,” said Wilfried Vyslozil, director of SOS Children’s Villages’ German association, SOS Kinderdörfer weltweit. “The children have been heavily traumatised by the situation.” He appealed to all parties involved in the Syrian civil war to regard the SOS Children’s Village as safe space for children and to move troops elsewhere.

Neighbouring states were included in the appeal following an air strike launched from Israel on 4 May, that hit buildings in the immediate vicinity of the SOS Children’s Village. More air strikes can be expected since there are several military facilities in the area. For this reason the coordinates of the SOS Children’s Village are being publicised.

Dummy picture
A child sleeps after surviving a recent bomb attack in Damascus. SOS Children's Villages is working in Syria to ensure the wellbeing of children © C.Alfarah 

Helping the victims within Syria 

The SOS Children’s Village in Damascus has been evacuated on several occasions due to the fighting. Currently, the children and SOS mothers from the SOS Children’s Village in Aleppo reside in Damascus. “We felt we could no longer guarantee their wellbeing in Aleppo, and decided to evacuate several months ago” he said.

Vyslozil, who has recently returned from the region, described the situation of Syrians as dramatic. "More than 1.5 million people are fleeing the fighting within Syria. The team at SOS Children’s Villages has been helping the victims of the civil war often at the risk of their own safety: All our colleagues on the ground in Syria are in constant danger."

"Three Syrians who grew up in our villages have been killed along with their families; another has vanished without trace. Practically all of our co-workers in Syria have lost relatives”, he said. “Snipers are shooting at everything that moves, kidnappings have become daily news, fighting is erupting constantly in other areas.” The rights of children must be respected. This can only be achieved by removing the line of fire away from children.