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Ibrahim 1
Omer M. Ibrahim
Mrs. Kathleen Wax
English 111
Mar 27, 2016
Caught in the Midst of War
“My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and perpetrator, and my rule was
kill or be killed” Ismeal Beah a former child soldier. It is a ruthless world that all child soldiers
live in. A child soldier is a child under eighteen years’ old that is affiliated with an armed group.
These children boys or girls are used by armed groups in many ways, serving as spies, soldiers,
and cooks. Faced with poverty, lack of education and discrimination, children see becoming a
soldier as a way from escaping for these hardships. Furthermore, many of them get manipulated
by fear and by whoever is in control of them. Many armed groups recruit them because they are
easier to manage and control. The U.N. lunched a plan to end child recruitment by 2016 stated
Lisa Schlein a writer in Voice of America Agency. Yes, the global community is putting more
effort to fight this issue, but it not enough. Today, there are about three hundred thousand child
soldiers around the world, and it is becoming a worldwide phenomenon (Lisa Schlein).
Therefore, The United Nations, must implement stricter laws to reduce this epidemic from
harvesting more children.
The global community gave more attention to the issue of child soldiers after learning
about the awful crimes committed by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA was a militant
group that was led by the warlord Joseph Kony. Furthermore, the War Child Organization
documented that LRA fought to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony committed horrible
crimes especially against children. His militia abducted adolescents in order for them to become
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child soldiers. They were forced to kill their parents, friends and innocent civilians. Due to this,
the international criminal court passed an arrest warrant to capture Kony and his commanders,
but Interpol is still unable to capture them. (Warrant of Arrest Unsealed).
It is evident that activists, humanitarians and the criminal court are not doing enough to
stop child soldier recruitment, because it’s still a prevalent practice in South Sudan, and because
the criminals who commit it are not being punished. Human rights researcher Skye Wheeler
reports that South Sudan is engulfed in a devastating civil war, where many of its children are
being used to fight for the opposing sides of in their battles. Wheeler explained how she
interviewed twenty boys who escaped from a government commander called Pul Pulyang. Pul’s
soldiers stormed and destroyed many villages in order to to abduct its children. “I was
conscripted put into a cattle coral, held there and then we were taken to a training camp, there
were three cars of us boys…we were taught to stand still for some hours if- it you faint you get
beaten” said one of the boys to Wheeler. The recruitment of child soldiers is a common practice
even though it’s illegal under the South Sudanese law.
Moreover, Wheeler explains how Commander Pul doesn’t see any consequences of
recruiting boys, usually because child recruiters are never punished, rather they get rewarded or
they end up in a high governmental position. For example, the warlord David Yau Yau recruited
about 1755 boys, yet last year he has signed a peace deal with the South Sudanese government
that assured him a high governmental position. Furthermore she reports that The Disarmament,
Demolition and Reintegration Commission (DDRC) is has been trying it’s best to release these
children form the hands of Yau Yau’s forces for years. The South Sudanese government and its
opposing forces led by Reik Machar pledged to stop using child soldiers in their clashes, yet
many of their commanders still force many children into war. Wheeler, ended the article by
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advising the South Sudanese authorities to hold these commanders accountable.
Also, children in Yemen are facing the same misfortune as the South Sudanese children.
The United Nations stated the war in Yemen killed about six thousand people and placed about
twenty one million civilians in poverty. The UN is trying its best to push talks between President
Mansour Hadi who is allied with the Saudi-Coalition and the Huthis who are backed by Iran
(Ghobari). What is causing this war to be more devastating is that both sides are not gaining
more ground which means that the war is going to take a longer time. Furthermore, humanitarian
agencies reported that both groups are to blame for the catastrophic damage they caused in
Yemen. Sadly, the Saudi-coalition, which is supported by American intelligence has been the
one harvesting more deaths (New York Times).
Furthermore, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Houthi armed group has
intensified its recruitment of children as soldiers since the start of the civil war in Yemen in
September 2014. The UNICEF declared that the Houthis and other militant groups comprise
almost to the third of all fighters in Yemen. From March 26th to April 24th in 2015 the armed
group recruited up to one hundred and forty children. Journalists also reported seeing kids from
the age of fourteen to sixteen with rifles fighting in the front lines. In March the Human Rights
Watch interviewed activists, a Houthi child recruiter, and seven children. Most of the boys said
that they volunteered to fight, but most of them were given minor jobs like, carrying food and
ammunition to front line fighters, and also retrieving injured soldiers and corpses. The Houthi
recruiter mentioned that he recruited his nephew who got injured in the chest last July, but now
healed and he is ready to go back to fight.
In addition, the HWR learned from the interview that the Houthis train their child soldiers
through extremist Islamic studies to brainwash them, and then followed by combat training.
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Furthermore, the children do not get paid for their service, rather they get provided with food and
a mild stimulant called Qat. Most of the Children bring their own weapons but the Houthi
leadership provides them with ammunition. In November 2012 the leader of the armed group
Abdul Malik Badr Al Deen declared that he will stop the group from using children in combat.
Sadly, according to the article the armed group leader did not fulfil his promise, because since
the beginning of the war the UN reported that 140 child soldiers have been recruited. For
verification issues the UN was only able to calculate a fraction of the whole number of children
serving under the Houthis. “The cost of these young people- the trauma, the injuries, and the loss
of schooling-is a huge, as is cost to Yemen’s Future” says Abraham a special adviser in the
HWR. It is heart breaking to see that Yemen in engulfed in a devastating war because the
influence of other countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. They caused this war because of oil and
economic competition and they gained support by changing it into a sectarian war between Sunni
and Shia Muslims. Yemen will not see the dawn of peace because the night is still young
Recently children have been recruited and brainwashed in Syria. According to
Encyclopedia Britannica, it all started in March 2011, when the Syrian regime authority was
challenged by huge numbers of protestors who were calling for Assad to step down. In retaliation
the Syrian government used violence to suppress the pro-democracy protests. Explicit, footage
was leaked of protestors being killed and tortured, even though the government closed all
primary information sources for foreign journalists. The footage showed how Syrian security
forces fired indiscriminately into crowds. This action lead to the rise of opposition militant
groups, which resulted in a full out war between the Assad government and moderate rebel
groups. This civil war gave a chance for the extremist group the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq
(ISIS) to spread and hold vast areas of land in Syria. In addition, this extremist group is
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spreading its poisonous propaganda in the areas is took over and is now brainwashing and
recruiting many children as soldiers.
A seventeen-year-old former child soldier named Jumah joined the Islamic state ranks
last year. He mentioned to the journalists from the Wall Street Journal about his experience after
fleeing to the Turkish border along with other children from the hands of the extremists group.
He explained how he took lessons in beheading with other trainees. The teachers brought
captives from the free Syrian Army and forced them to kneel on their knees. Jumah said “It was
like learning to chop onions; you grab him by the fore head and then slowly slice across the
neck” (Abi-Habib). Moreover, the terrorists group also exchanged secular education systems
with religious education in the areas they controlled like Deir Ezzour and Aleppo. Chemistry was
replaced by twisted religious subjects to prepare the boys who joined ISIS’s lines for combat.
Abi-Habib also narrates a story of a former child soldier named Ismail who escaped to
the Turkey and explained to the Wall Street Journal journalists the horrors he witnessed. He was
ordered by his superiors to help behead every male from the age of fourteen to the age of fortyfive from an enemy Syrian tribe. Ismail was reluctant to act but his younger brother took the task
with zeal. He also said that he was wounded at the first day of battle, and while he was healing
he took the chance to flee. After fleeing he called his brother who was entrenched in the Islamic
state ideology, the brother said to Ismail you are an apostate. If you don’t come back, we will
punish you by God’s law”. Ismail tried his best to persuade his brother to abandon ISIS and flee
to Turkey but was already too late. (Abi-Habib)
The majority of boys being interviewed mentioned how they struggled to sleep because
of nightmares. Also, many of them suffered from memory loss, but the war memory they all
never forgot was the memory of their first killing. Many parents worry that their boys will be
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forever brainwashed by the indoctrination of the militant group. ISIS training camps are an
example of how the UN isn’t doing its best to prevent child recruitment. The damage of the
brainwashing that the Islamic State has caused will impact the Middle East for forthcoming years
a region that is already crippled by countless conflicts. (Abi-Habib).
The issue of child recruitment around the world is not being solved even though, the
media and activists are putting forth effort to stop it. That is because the criminals who are
forcing children into recruitment are not being punished, and many of them are still running free
to do whatever they want. Also, many of the groups that recruit child soldiers are non-state
militia, which limits the United Nations efforts to stop them. As mentioned before the U.N.
lunched a plant top children recruitment by 2016, yet were are in 2016 and we can only see that
its increasing. Nevertheless, the international criminal court should play a bigger role in this
issue. The International Criminal Court should sanction these criminals by freezing their
accounts and banning them from traveling. Finally, we should not only focus on stopping child
recruitment but, also reintegrate those children who suffered from war through education and
psychological treatment back into society. This will prevent us from having a generation that
knows nothing but war.
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Works Cited
Abi-Habib, Maria. "The Child Soldiers Who Escaped Islamic State." WSJ. Wall Street Journal,
26 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
Beah, Ishmael. "A Quote from A Long Way Gone." Goodreads. Goodreads, n.d. Web. 31 Mar.
2016.
Ghobari, Mohammed. "U.N. Diplomat Pushes to Hold Yemen Talks, Arab Air Strikes Pound
Houthis." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 01 June 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Schlein, Lisa. "UN Campaigns to End Recruitment of Child Soldiers." VOA. Voice America, 13
Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
"South Sudan Hunger At Its Worst Since Independence in 2011 - Experts." Africa News Service
28 May 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. "Syrian Civil
War." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 04 Apr.
2016.
"The Urgent Need for Peace in Yemen." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Dec.
2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
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War Child Organization. "The Lord's Resistance Army." (LRA). War Child Organization, n.d.
Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
"Warrant of Arrest Unsealed against Five LRA Commanders." International Criminal Court.
International Criminal Court, 6 May 2005. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Wheeler, Skye. "In South Sudan, Children on the Battlefield." Human Rights Watch. Human
Rights Watch, 05 June 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Yemen: Houthis Send Children Into Battle." Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch, 12
May 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
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