A new trend has emerged in Aleppo, Syria, where children have been spotted burning old tires in the streets.
Contrary to what some might speculate, they are not protesting against anything. They are, in fact, using the ensuing thick black smoke to form a “curtain” that, they hope, will protect their homes from war planes.
The practice is more common in rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, which have been heavily bombarded recently by pro-government forces.
Rami Jarrah, a journalist stationed in Syria, said the makeshift method is proving to be effective.
"It's causing confusion for the jets and a diversion for the offensive on the ground that aims to break the siege,” Jarrah told BBC. "Everyone is doing it but to participate in the resistance this is really the only thing the children can do."
However, the makeshift smoke screen is not just meant for protection.
“It is also to send a message to the world that not enough is being done to stop the criminality and warplanes,” Yasser Al-rahil, another journalist and member of the opposition group Revolutionary Forces of Syria media office, told The Independent.
The five-year Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of this century — one that will affect generations to come.
Child casualty rates were the highest recorded in any recent conflict in Syria, according to a 2015 United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund report. At least 10,000 children have been killed in the conflict but unofficial death toll could be a lot more.
“The dangers for children go beyond death and injury," UNICEF said. "Boys as young as 12 have been recruited to support the fighting, some in actual combat, others to work as informers, guards, or arms smugglers."
Around 2 million Syrian children, of the total 5.5 million, have been psychologically affected by the civil war.
Just this week, dozens of Syrians, mostly women and children, were hospitalized after alleged chlorine gas bombs hit the city of Idlib.
“Just before midnight, helicopters dropped five explosive barrels containing cylinders of chlorine and shards of metal on neighborhoods in Saraqeb," Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense group, told Al Jazeera. "We suspect it was chlorine because of the smell and the nature of the injuries — suffocation and burning, red eyes. Members of the civil defense brought them all to the nearby hospital."
And while millions of Syrians inside the besieged country are enduring what many activists have referred to as “unspeakable abuses,” the ones who managed to escape are being forced to return, thanks to the political power play and rising xenophobia in Europe.