A history of violence; teaching a new generation how not to resolve conflicts

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Back in 2016 I wrote the article below as a dire warning for the children that were being subjected to the Syrian conflict in all its forms, as well as to what it means for us internationally. Now, three years later the situation has not changed and there is no end in sight.

Children surviving together
Victims

The Syrian conflict has now been going on for several years. Syrian cities look like medieval ruins after being under siege for several years. The images themselves say more than a thousand words, yet despite these images we are still having a hard time in the West accepting that there are that many refugees. Syrian society is as damaged as the Syrian cities are, and most likely it will take much longer for its society to rebuild.

When we look at the ISIL related terrorist attacks worldwide from 2012 until 2015 we see that regions that have a damaged rule-of-law and society structure significantly have more casualties. And although the data over the past decade gives an accurate picture and insight of terrorism we should not overlook the next coming decade.

When being raised in society that is full of violence, children will only have a history of violence as a reference point when it comes to conflict. They learn by example and at this moment they don’t have that many positive role models. The polity in the West is spoiled largely by a long period of more than 60 years of peace. A peace that has been brought by the sacrifice of young men and women that fought for freedom. The following generations learned that if they want to prevent this misery from happening again they would need to change. This change meant learning to cooperate and having equal rights was the only way forward. Even until today we can see debated in western society that deal with equal rights. From policy brutality against minorities to religious rights and burkini’s at the beach. Yet despite this we teach the next generations to live together and not to respect each others human rights.

Children in Syria and other surrounding conflict reasons do not have this. They have been in a constant state of traumatization. This traumatization is so damaging that we will see the consequences of this for generations to come. This is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. When we refer to nation-building and democratic processes we automatically assume that the polity in a given country has the capacity to do so. However, if whole generations grow up in a war zone and in a constant state of trauma the chances of them picking up regular life will be hard to say the least. Especially if there is no reference to “normal”. We should work harder to stop the traumatization of children in war-zones. If we fail a whole generation, they will only know a history of violence. If we fail them now, the chance of them failing us when they grow up to build democracy is substantial.

Sources

​(Global Terrorism Database, 2015)​

  1. Global Terrorism Database, S. (2015). ISIL-Related Terrorist Attacks Worldwide, 2013-2015. Retrieved 2019, from START website: https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/interactive/ISILmap.html