Omar, 11, sits drawing a picture depicting his memories of Haswiya, a village in rural Homs.
In early 2013, Omar’s entire family was killed during an attack on this village, an incident now known as the Haswiya massacre.
Omar vowed to become a fighter and join the junior ranks or “cubs” of the Islamic State (IS).
He was saved from this bleak future by the intervention of the Syrian Forearm group, which enrolled him in a psychological support programme for children aged between 11 and 15.
The programme was launched in the Al-Waar district of Homs in June 2015. Its sessions were developed by the Dutch organisation War Child, whose I Deal workshops have been implemented in more than ten conflict zones around the world.
The workshops in Al-Waar are run by a group of 22 volunteers, who want to combat the culture of bearing arms that has affected Syrian children.
“Over the past two years we have observed growing tendencies towards violence amongst children in opposition-held areas,” said Abu Fadi, head of the Al-Waar project.
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