Obama-backed Syrian rebel groups, including ISIS fighters, have been recruiting 10 – 17-year-old children for military operations sometimes under the guise of offering education, says HRW. The teens were taught how to use weapons and were even sent on suicide missions.
HumanRightsActivists “Opposition armed groups used boys as young as 15 as fighters and children as young as 14 in support roles. Some children who participated were detained or killed in battle,” says the latest report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The report, “‘Maybe We Live and Maybe We Die’: Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Groups in Syria,” deals with experiences of 25 boys who are current or former members of opposition armed groups.
Though the rebels mostly “employed” children of 15-17, one doctor described treating a boy of between 10 and 12 years old. He said that the boy’s job was “to whip prisoners held in an ISIS detention facility.”
“Boys interviewed fought on the frontlines, spied on hostile forces, acted as snipers, treated the wounded on battlefields, and ferried ammunition and other supplies to battles while fighting raged,” HRW’s report says.
The number of children fighting on behalf of the rebels is as yet unknown, the report says. But it gives the data from the Violations Documenting Center, a Syrian monitoring group, which by May 2014 recorded 194 “non-civilian” male children killed since September 2011.
According to the rights watchdog, the children were taken by several extremist organizations. Among them were the Free Syrian Army (FSA), extremist Islamist forces such as the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) military and Asayish police forces in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria.
The boys say they have joined the rebels due to different reasons. Some of them followed their relatives or friends who already served there. Other recruits “lived in battle zones without open schools, participated in public protests, or had personally suffered at the hands of the government,” HWR says.
The commanders sometimes asked the children and adults to take part in suicide missions, the boys added. “Sometimes fighters volunteered, and sometimes [commanders] said, ‘Allah chose you,’” said Majed, 16, recruited by Jabhat al-Nusra in Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria.