Iranian-backed Iraqi militias recruit child soldiers in violation of international law


An exclusive investigation by Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw has revealed that the Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hashd al-Shaabi trained hundreds of child soldiers in northern Iraq, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Commanders of Hashd al-Chaabi’s troops, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (FMP), carried out military training in the village of Bashir, in Kirkuk province, for some 280 children. Last year, 180 child soldiers completed the three-month military training course, and around 100 children have so far graduated this year.

According to Rudaw, the children were trained to use light and heavy weapons to prepare them to participate in the fight against the enemies of PMF in Iraq. International law prohibits the recruitment and training of children under the age of 18, and the use of child soldiers has been recognized as a war crime under the statute of the International Criminal Court.

A representative of the Shiite militia defended the decision to recruit and train child soldiers, “These young people are learning martial arts and how to use weapons so that they can defend themselves and their areas,” Sayyid Qambar Musawi said, a Shiite cleric in Bashir. .

PMF is a diverse umbrella organization of 60,000 to 140,000 people formed in 2014 and many of its hard factions directly to receive funding, training and arms coming directly from Iran, raising fears that the Iranian regime will become increasingly powerful in Iraq.

The Iraqi parliament passed a law last year that recognizes the Shiite militia group as an official member of the Iraqi armed forces, subject to Iraqi laws, which also prohibits the use of child soldiers.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented the prevalence of child soldiers by many armed organizations in Iraq, including the PMF, which HRW accuses of a variety of human rights. abuses, including summary executions.

The Kirkuk Provincial Council confirmed to Rudaw that an investigation had been opened and that action would be taken against groups that recruit and train child soldiers. “[We call] on civil society organizations, security institutions and the United Nations to put an end to it, ”said Jwan Hassan, head of the Human Rights Committee of the Kirkuk Council.

The Rudaw report is consistent with other evidence that Iranian-backed militias engage in this illegal practice.

In its 2016 Human Rights Report for Iraq, the United States Department of State accused that “armed Shiite groups, under the PMF banner, continued to provide military-style weapons training and physical conditioning to children under 18 in summer training camps.”

Although Shia clergy officially prohibit the recruitment of child soldiers, the report notes that social media posts prove child soldiers are being deployed by militias. “For example, the official ‘Ideological Orientation’ page of the PMF website,” the report notes, “praised a 14-year-old volunteer from Basra for fighting alongside his father in Fallujah.”

In April 2016, the United Nations verified the recruitment of twelve minor soldiers by PMF, all of whom were killed in action.

Witnesses cited by the report said the PMF often recruited poor children for fighting.

The State Department also reported that in some cases Sunni PMFs also recruited child soldiers.

[Photo: Kurdistan24 English / YouTube ]


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