Over the course of 2017, ISIS lost nearly all its territories in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour. The group’s loss of territory has allowed for the province to enter a period of relative calm, despite continued threats from the militants launching insurgent attacks, as well as the on-going tensions between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The provincial capital has shown signs of rebuilding and people have begun to return to their homes.
The return of residents and the revival of economic activity, however, is an uneven process. Many towns and villages in Deir ez-Zour are located in the far-off countryside and remain relatively isolated from the main hubs of trade, slowing the pace of reconstruction. Furthermore, many families have lost their primary earners to war, displacement or bombings, forcing many children to take up employment and support their families through limited means.
Many of these children have taken up professions such as becoming roadside sellers and buying a cart to sell their goods between different locales. It is a difficult and often thankless task, worsened by the unsafe conditions along the province’s roads as well as the harsh Deir ez-Zour winter winds.
For many of them, an early adulthood is the only real course of action. They are their families’ sole supporters and without them, their families would not be able to buy any vital goods such as clean water. Furthermore, many of the schools across the province remain out of service, overpopulated or under-supplied. Thus, even if these children were to have the inclination or opportunity to pursue education, they simply don’t have the options.
The problem is not limited to Deir ez-Zour. Across many parts of Syria, children have been forced to work in a bid to support their families. Many international organisations are concerned that forced to work and with no education, these children risk being exploited or will lose out on future opportunities.