Monday, September 14, 2009

WWB: children forced to be militants

WHAT WAR BRINGS: children forced to be militants

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, children were forced to be militants. Sometimes this was for money, sometimes as an after-effect of violence in their lives. I used the word ‘forced’ because I do not hold children responsible for the fact that they are militants. I hold the adults responsible. The children are too young and too na├»ve to know what they are doing.

A Daily Kos poster Sue4theBillofRights wrote a diary on children in Afghanistan and how they become suicide bombers after seeing civilian casualties.

Afghan Children Commit to Be Suicide Bombers After Civilian Casualties

With Taliban looking on approvingly, these tearful children in Afghanistan swear that they will now be suicide bombers after losing people they love in the only thing that more war funding gets you: More war.

A Canadian child, Omar Khadr, was detained in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo. He was 15 at the time of his capture, and brutally treated by both US authorities and Canadian authorities. I am not sure how he ended up in Afghanistan and how he ended up fighting, but I do know he was a child and not capable of making such adult decisions as to go to war and fight.

Khadr Video Released

Khadr is at times despondent, and then inconsolable, as he takes turns answering the questions of his Canadian interrogators, followed by other periods where he refuses to look at them at all.

And over in Pakistan, the Taliban are reportedly buying and selling children for suicide attacks. Some are as young as eleven.

Pakistan: Taliban buying children for suicide attacks

Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has been increasingly using the children in attacks, the officials said. A video released by Pakistan's military shows the children training for the task. In the video of a training camp, children can be seen going through exercises.

Reports out of Iraq also claim that children are recruited as suicide bombers. This report is from a UN representative in 2008.

UN says Iraqi children are recruited as suicide bombers by militants

Insurgent groups and militias in Iraq are recruiting children in the war-torn country as suicide bombers, the United Nations said Friday, echoing concerns expressed recently by the U.S. military. Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, said her recent five-day trip to Iraq convinced her that the country's children are "the silent victims of the ongoing violence. Since 2004, an increasing number of children have been recruited into various militias and insurgent groups, including as suicide bombers," said Coomaraswamy.

It is difficult to put a number on this – all we know that the number is more than zero. Children in Iraq were not just recruited as suicide bombers, they are also hired to assemble bombs, clean guns and transport weapons. Their parents support this, mainly because they need the money the children earn to feed their families. This is dangerous work while they are doing it, because of the possibility of an explosion. It is also dangerous for the children to be working for men who are known to be violent. Children are working for the Sunni insurgents and the Shia insurgents, and (reportedly) al Qaeda.

This was also reported in 2006.

Insurgents using children to fight US-led forces

Some children have been recruited by insurgents to fight in Iraq, according to a prominent local NGO.

…. “I have been trained to be a suicide bomber but he [the insurgent trainer] wants me to wait for an opportune time to become a shahid [martyr] in a very special attack and until that happens, I have to help in attacks against the US troops who are against Islam and [who are] the killers of my parents,” Mustafa said. ‘Shahid’ is a religious term in Islam that literally means ‘witness’. It is a title that is given to a Muslim after his death if he died during fulfilment of a religious commandment, or during a war for the religion.

…… According to the instructor, insurgents give weapons to child fighters after training them for three months on how to use them. He said very small children unable to carry the weight of a weapon are instead taught how to use hand grenades and taught how to distract US soldiers before attacks.

And this is a report from 2007.

Poverty drives children to work for armed groups

Eleven-year-old Seif Abdul-Rafiz and his two brothers were left with no choice but to leave school and work so as to help their unemployed parents make ends meet. Unable to find a job, Seif resorted to making bombs for Sunni insurgents who are fighting US troops in Iraq. “We work about eight hours a day and are supervised by two men. They give us food and at the end of the day we get paid for our work. Sometimes we get US $7 and sometimes we get $10, depending on how many bombs we make,” Abdul-Rafiz said. “The bombs are used to fight American soldiers. I was really afraid in the beginning but then my parents told me that it was for two good causes: the first is to help our family eat; and the second is to fight occupation forces,” he added.

Iraq's Children Fighters

Mohammed,13, finishes his breakfast, changes his clothes and walk three kilometres, not to school or even work but to a training campaign. Carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a belt filled with bullets, he kisses his mother with a broken heart and heads for the unknown. "I was forced to help militants to save the life of my mother and sisters," he tells with a tone full of sorrow and pain.

…… "My father was killed by US troops on the outskirts of Ramadi two years ago and since than my mother has been struggling to bring us enough money to survive," he recalls bitterly. "One day, five men came to our door and threatened her. They wanted me to help them in exchange for food and the rent," he added. "If we refused, they would have killed me and my oldest sister. My mother had no chance even to think. She had to agree."

….. Mohammed has been trained to become a suicide bomber, which he hates.

And, from the same article, another child’s report:

"I lost my arm in the same attack that killed my parents and sister," Bilal [not his real name] told IOL in al-Qaim, referring to the 2004 onslaught on Fallujah. "I swore to take my revenge from the US troops. They don’t force me to learn how to be a suicide bomber but I want to meet my family again as a martyr and a hero," he said. "I celebrated with my friends two weeks ago our first success. We killed two US Marines on the outskirts of al-Qaim and day after day we will prevail over our occupiers."

Oh, what a horrific reality we have created in Iraq and Afghanistan!

And then there is the reality of the USA, where children are recruited in their high schools to join the military. And some 16 and 17 year olds do just that.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: children forced to be militants.


Statement from an Iraq War Veteran:

If I say nothing, I have failed. If I do nothing, I am guilty. If I live by these ideals of democracy I can see that war is failure. A war of opportunity rather than necessity is unjust. War is the antithesis of peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom. Let us hear the stories of these young men and women. Let us see through the eyes of the Iraqis and the minds of the soldiers what has occurred under the auspices of freedom and democracy. Let us then ask ourselves if conflict has brought peace. Let us be challenged by the horrific atrocities that no one should have to bear, and then ask ourselves if they were worth it. ~ Drew Cameron

From Dahr Jamail’s article:

Cameron, who hails from a military background, was raised by his father to value the ideals that the military professes: loyalty, integrity, and honor. His trip to Iraq altered everything, and "it wasn't until after I came back that the truth hit me. I would keep to myself, and try to block out my experiences in Iraq. In the course of processing my memories I realized we had destroyed ... [Iraq's] infrastructure and were not there to help. I realized it was not about freedom and democracy, and recollecting the way we had conducted ourselves, and the way we had brutalized the people turned me against the occupation. We were trained to fight and win battles. I was in the artillery, trained to blow shit up. We were not there to re-build anything or help the Iraqi people."

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