Tragic Photos Show Child Victims of Turkey's War in Syria

Syria's eight-year civil war has claimed up to half a million lives and displaced millions more, devastating a nation and leaving none more vulnerable than its youth, whose suffering will linger long after the guns fall silent.

Striking images obtained by Newsweek tell the story of what life is like for some children in a stretch of Syria once again ravaged by conflict due to a Turkey-backed attack on Kurdish-led forces.

While some theaters of the country's multi-sided conflict have calmed, a new front has opened between Turkey—a NATO nation allied with Syrian insurgents—and Kurdish-led forces that took a top role in the Pentagon's battles against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). After shifting sides multiple times throughout its intervention in Syria, the United States has sought to sit this particular fight out.

With or without the U.S.' backing, Turkey's decision to invade northern Syria has led to a new humanitarian crisis with children caught right in the center.

"I've seen this so many times covering this region," Thea Pedersen, a Danish freelance journalist currently covering the situation in northeastern Syria, told Newsweek. "No war goes beyond hitting and affecting civilians and first and foremost the children. I've met and made many stories about children — Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan — and they always leave a big heartfelt impact on me."

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Only a couple of months old, a baby girl lying in a classroom in the Fawar Huly School in Hasakah is now among the estimated more than 130,000 displaced civilians in northeast Syria. Thea Pedersen
syria child cry war hospital
“Where is my leg? Why do I only have one leg when everybody else has two?” cries only eight- year-old Sara from Qamishlo now tied to a hospital bed. Her house was shelled on the Turkish invasion’s second day in a neighborhood in the de-facto capital of the Rojava-region. Sara not only lost her right leg but also her brother, 13-year-old Mohammed. Thea Pedersen
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The family of eight-year-old Sara can blame a lot of people for their current situation: The U.S. for withdrawing from Northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for pursuing his safety zone. The Western allies for passively watching from a far. But according to Sara’s mother, Nuriman, she only blames one person: Herself, for not evacuating from their house earlier. Thea Pedersen
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Still in a state of shock and trauma eight-year-old Sara now rarely speaks, doesn’t make eye contact with anyone and doesn’t seem to notice the pink and red teddy bears and golden bracelets neighbors and family brought her in the hospital. Still not aware that her brother Mohammed, 13, was killed, she is only clinging her small hands to a pile of banknotes and her phone as she has disappeared into a world of YouTube-cartoons since the bomb left her one-legged. Thea Pedersen
syria war young child hospital
“The Americans betrayed us. They sold us. They made us homeless. What does Erdogan want from us?”, a grandmother holding her granddaughter close, keeps asking us as her family had to flee Ras al-Ayn and is now trying to uphold a decent living in a classroom in the Fawar Huly School in Hasakah. Thea Pedersen
syria war young girl school
Having left their home and village in a rush as the operation of the Turkish wrath took its starting point by shelling the city of Ras al-Ayn, a girl tries to use a worn-out school desk as a means of playing at the Fawar Huly School in Hasakah. Thirty schools in the city have been transformed to shelters for the internally displaced persons. Thea Pedersen
syria war young children school
“Nothing is clear about our situation now. We are left in the dark. All we want is to return to our home. I don’t care who takes over the city but we cannot return if Erdogan takes Ras al-Ayn, 41-year-old Ibrahim Abdallah ⁠—a worker who fled the city with his wife, two-year-old twin sons and a three-year-old daughter⁠—says from a school-shelter in Hasakah. Thea Pedersen
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19-year old Jamilah, seen here with one of her sons, along with her 26-year old husband Ahmed Mohammed and their extended family escaped on motorbikes and in cars as the news of the Turkish invasion hit their home in Ras al-Ayn almost simultaneously as the airstrikes. Thea Pedersen
syria children hol camp conflict
More than 71,000 people, women, children and men previous living in the Islamic State, are currently detained in the infamous al-Hol Camp. Of these, 10,100 are held in an area of maximum security called "the Annex" hosting the most hardcore and dedicated ISIS-supporters still upholding a mini-Caliphate behind the bars. Thea Pedersen
syria war young boy camp
In the main market-street of al-Hol Camp, hosting more than 71,000 people of ISIS-families and affiliates being captured primarily from Baghouz and Hajiin in Deir Ezzor province, a boy and his father with no legs looks cautiously as we enter the camp of high tensions. Thea Pedersen