Children of Syria, BBC2 - TV review: A frontline dispatch reveals why the battle never ends for the children of Syria


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The Independent Culture

The BBC's Lyse Doucet has followed six children in Syria over six months and brought back stories and images as harrowing as any Unicef fundraising film. What distinguished Children of Syria (BBC2) was its wider journalistic intentions. If we want to better understand the country and the war, said Doucet, then we must listen to the stories of the children.

Thirteen-year-old Kifah, 11-year-old Daad and eight-year-old Beraha are among the three million Syrian children whose schooling has been disrupted by displacement. The details of their suffering were different, but their desires were remarkably similar: to return home, to play with their friends in the street again and to study so that they might one day become a doctor or teacher. "Instead of learning to read and write I learnt about weapons," said Beraha. "I now know the names of bullets, tracers and rubber bullets."

In another world, Jalal, a precocious and gregarious 14-year-old from Damascus, would be happily showing off his vocabulary on Channel 4's Child Genius. In this world, he's an armed supporter of Assad, following in his father's footsteps: "With this gun we can protect our country. We will defend our land with it and fight those armed groups who denied us our childhood." Meanwhile, in a refugee camp just over the Turkish-Syrian border, 10-year-old Izzeddin also dreams of the day he'll fight, in his case on the side of the Free Syrian Army.

Both boys spoke often of death and seemed to use "martyred" synonymously with "killed". Compared to them, Izzedin's brother Omar was a voice of world-weary experience. He was only 15, but already a rebel army veteran of two years. "I'm 99 per cent sure that the war in Syria won't end," he told Doucet. "It will last until the end of days."