Books and Pencils, not Bullets

21 October 2013

Books and Pencils, not Bullets” is the name of a campaign started in Beirut on October 4, 2013. The campaign started as a in front of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) building in central Beirut. It was organized by several civil society organizations including: “Tomorrow is Ours” children center, Najda Now association, Sarda, Butterfly Effect, Popular Committee for Relief and Development, Ethar and a number of independent activists.

As the Syrian crisis enters its third year, it has left behind catastrophic numbers of refugees estimated at 2 millions outside of Syria and 5 millions internally. More than half of these refugees, about a million, are children. The estimated number of children who have not been able to attend schools has reached 2 millions. Thus, the sit-in came to call on the international community to live up to its responsibilities towards the Syrian people, and especially the children.

مصلق إعلاني لفعالية دفتر و قلم رصاص لا رصاص ... المصدر صفحة الفعالية على الفيس بوك
A poster of the campaign. Source: The official Facebook page of the campaign.

The campaign demanded better protection for children’s right to live, and their right to education. Among the demands presented by the organizers were calls to protect children from the ongoing war, guaranteeing food and medicine for children, as well as opening schools for the refugee children and securing sufficient educational material, supporting advocacy programs against child labor and establishing special psychiatric support centers for children.

The sit-in, which was supervised by 50 activists, included a variety of activities for the children including: facepainting, clay moulding and choirs and theatre shows. Two plays were performed by Syrian and Palestinian children in an attempt to show the shared thread between the two tragedies. The children, who turned the ESCWA square into a real workshop, still showed the visible scars of the war they saw even through their play. When asked by Syria Untold why her clay man has one leg, the little girl answered: “He lost it in the war!”

According to activist and organizer Dellair Youssef, “The activity was a way of demanding the children’s basic rights to life and education and presenting these demands to the ESCWA, the Lebanese state, the UNICEF and the UNHCR. The children wrote their own letters to the relevant institutions and we hope they will respond to these demands.

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad