After experiencing some of the heaviest fighting in Syria over the course of the first half of 2017, southern Syria is experiencing an unprecedented and tenuous calm that has lasted for much of the second half of 2017. The calm, which was achieved as a result of the deescalation agreements that came into force some five months ago, has encouraged many Syrians return and start rebuilding their lives. In the Daraa al-Balad District of Daraa City, the reopening of the The Auranitis Centre for Psychological Support Centre for children highlights a promising sign for the future.
The symbolism of the reopening of the centre here in the Daraa al-Balad District is had to miss. Over the course of the fighting between the government forces and the rebels, Daraa al-Balad was one of the most intense and contested battlegrounds alongside its neighbouring district of Manshiya. Both districts witnessed intense ground battles and heavy bombardment, that virtually ended all life. Indeed, the centre itself laid abandoned for ten months.
Now reopened, the centre aims to resume its mission of providing psychological care and comfort for Syrian children who have suffered immensely during the country’s six-year war. The centre has two main programmes, one aimed for children between five and nine and other aimed for children between nine and 13. Each programme has been tailored by psychological experts to help cope with trauma through games and activities such as drawing.
The services provided by the centre may not be as tangible as the reconstruction of homes and the restarting of businesses. However, it is just as important. Data from countries that have experienced civil wars show that children who grew up with the trauma of war can be more prone to resorting to violence or otherwise suffer from lifelong conditions that impact daily life. As they grow up, such individuals can be more prone to joining armed groups or gangs, resulting in chronic low-level societal violence.
Indeed, the importance of providing care and psychological treatment has been increasingly recognised in Syria despite lack of skills and resources available. A centre in Qamishli aims to provide psychological and physical care for victims of ISIS attacks while another centre in Mare’a intends to de-radicalise and reintegrate former militants.