Refugee camp children bear the emotional and physicial scars of Syria's civil war

(CBS News) The Syrian civil war began as a popular uprising a year and a half ago against the 42-year dictatorship of the Assad family.

It's estimated 20,000 Syrians have been killed and untold numbers of families are fleeing.

Islahiye Camp is a refuge from fighting and from fear. Conditions are basic, but the 8,000 Syrians who live here know they've left the violence behind them. More than half of the refugees are children, including Mohammad, Essam and 3-year-old Abdulrahman.

They're alone here. Two months ago their mother and father were killed in Aleppo by government soldiers who ambushed the minibus they were traveling in.

"I saw the driver's jaw shot off and another man's hand blown away by a grenade," Essam said.

He added his mother was killed by a bullet to the head as Abdulrahman sat in her lap. At ten years old, not all of Essam's wounds are physical.

Mohammad, who's eleven, was hit by shrapnel, and Abdulrahman has a steel rod in his leg, after the bone was shattered in the attack.

Eleven-year-old Essam (left) watched as Syrian government soldiers ambushed their minibus, killing the driver and his parents. He now lives in a refugee camp on the Syrian and Turkey border with his two brothers, Mohammad (center) and Abdulrahman.
CBS News

The boys are now being cared for by friends and relatives. Some of them are children themselves.

The Turkish Government is building new camps as fast as they can and moving refugees into them even before they're finished.

For the families that flee here find safety, but very little hope. There's no end in sight to Syria's civil war. Their children are learning to call a refugee camp home.

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They bring their memories of the war with them - a conflict that's forced many to grow up too quickly.

Amongst a group of children, one boy began singing a song.

"We can't wait forever," he sang. "President Bashar al-Assad must leave."

Soon the others joined him.

"Why did this child have to die?" they sang. "Please tell the army to go away."

No matter how this war ends - and no matter who wins - Syria and its children will be left with deep scars.

  • Holly Williams

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