The Cruel Lives of Child Soldiers
Instead of living their childhood, children from all around the globe are participating in armed conflicts. They’re holding guns instead of toys while being used as mere instruments to further their recruiter’s agenda. Then, they are thrust into the middle of a war zone. Even though this practice is dwindling around the world, reports prove that there are almost 300,000 children currently serving as soldiers in more than 20 countries.
Who is a child soldier?
A child soldier is any boy or girl under the age of 18 who is recruited to be a part of an army or an armed conflict. Even though the Current international law sets 15 years as the minimum age for recruitment in the army and participation in conflicts, the age of adulthood, according to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, is still 18.
Additionally, Reports prove that 40% of child soldiers are girls.
Read More: The Israeli Court Refuses Appeal Over the Murder of Bakr family’s Children in Gaza
What are the roles of child soldiers?
Many of these soldiers are recruited to participate and fight on the front lines. Some are used as bodyguards while others participate in suicide missions, such as suicide bombings. However, The roles of child soldiers aren’t limited to participating in hostilities since they also play a role in support functions. However, all of their tasks entail great risk and hardship.
A child soldier might be recruited to act as a cook, spy, messenger, human shield, mine “detector”, or even as a sex slave.
How are child soldiers being recruited?
Child soldiers are recruited either voluntarily or involuntarily. In some cases, children are abducted, threatened, or coerced into joining. In other cases, children are beaten into submission.
However, there are many instances where children choose to volunteer and participate. Economic pressure is one of the main reasons for such actions. Being poor, displaced, and separated from their family, children choose to join for the sake of their survival.
Some also join due to Drug-related reasons.
On the other hand, social pressure also plays a role in voluntary recruitment. Kids are brainwashed into believing that they have to fight or aid a certain party by the surrounding adults.
Why are children being recruited?
Unfortunately, there are many reasons for recruiting child soldiers. Not only are children more manageable and obedient, but they are also easier to manipulate than adults. Recruiters can use revenge, community identity, or ideology to influence innocent kids and brainwash them into joining.
Moreover, children are often less conscious of the danger surrounding war zones than adults. They’re usually full of energy, competitive, and eager to prove their worth. Thus, making them the ideal soldiers.
As Lucien, a 12-year-old ex-child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo said “Children, my dear brother, are the best fighters of the century. They have more energy than older people. They resist without feeling physical pain.”
Furthermore, child soldiers are considered a cheaper alternative to adult soldiers. The necessary investments for recruiting, training, and arming children are less costly than those for adults. They also require less space and need less food and water.
For more Read
Where are child soldiers being recruited?
Even though using child soldiers is considered a direct violation of the UN’s human rights, almost Fifty countries still allow their recruitment. However, non-state armed groups also allow their recruitment. The UN reports proved that government forces are guilty of at least 4000 verified violations related to child soldiers in the 20 examined countries. Though non-state armed groups are responsible for recruiting over 11,500 kids.
These countries include:
-Afghanistan, where children are being recruited by insurgent groups, like the Taliban, and the Afghan National Police.
-Burma, where children serve in the national army or armed ethnic opposition groups.
-The Central African Republic, where hundreds of kids join the rebel groups.
-Chad, where thousands of children either join the government or the rebel forces.
-Colombia, where kids are recruited to serve irregular armed groups.
-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where almost 30,000 boys and girls serves either the government or the rebel troops.
-India, where Maoist “Naxalite” rebels recruit child soldiers.
-Iraq, where kids are recruited by Al-Qaeda
-Yemen, where the government and its opposing forces use them.
The Consequences of Child Soldiering
Child Soldiering has many horrendous impacts. Not only do thousands of kids die as a direct consequence of their recruitment, but they also might get crippled for life.
However, in some cases, the psychological impact of it is far worse than the physical one. Ex-child soldiers usually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Trauma, Depression, Suicidality, Dissociation, and Derealization.
They are also observed to show Anti-social and Disruptive Behaviors along with Cognitive, Educational, and Occupational Impairment.
In brief, children are losing their innocence as a direct result of adults’ failure. Child soldiers are victims of life’s cruelty, whether they join the armed forces willingly or by force. Therefore, actions should be taken in order to stop their suffering.
244 Million Out of School Children (Where’s Their Right to Education?)
Education is the most basic right of every child. But for a staggering 224 million out of school children, education is a luxury they can’t afford.
That’s why, through this article, we are debunking the false mirage of all the “development in educational” and shedding light on:
- The current status of such millions of out-of-school children
- Major driving forces behind the education crisis globally
- Potential solutions
244 Million Out of School Children Globally
In 2022, a UNSECO report displayed that over 244 million children and youth between 6 and 18 won’t start a new school year, with the most out-of-school children in the Sub-Saharn region (98 million).
Research has shown that children are the first to bear the brunt in today’s war-torn world and calamities heightened by skyrocketing inflation and extreme climate events.
Though the numbers have come down after the sharp COVID-19 (290 million), the current wars, inflation, and climate change have left aid organizations responsible for financing universal education without sufficient funds.
Throughout the globe, there are various factors causing children to drop out of school, with some countries being hit harder than others. Nigeria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, in particular, are grappling with a staggering increase in the number of out-of-school children, largely due to the following underlying reasons.
High Inflation – Low Economic Safety
For parents unsure, if they’ll have a next meal, sending children to school is the last thing on their minds. For example, over 80 million people in Nigeria live below the poverty line. This has led the country to one of the worst national education crises.
“I miss my teacher, friends, and all my schoolmates.”10-years old Treasure, Nigeria (source: Frace 24 English)
Security threats, extreme poverty, and lack of public schools contribute to Nigeria’s education catastrophe. Like Treasure, 20 million Nigerian children are out of school, making them highly vulnerable to child labor, abuse, and underage marriages.
8-Year Long Civil War
In Yemen, out-of-school children are at increased risk of exploitation – being forced into civil war (child soldiers), early marriages, and child labor.
Mansour, a 16-years old boy, broke his spine in an accident at work in 2019 and has been unable to walk since. Once, Mansour went to school, studied, and regularly met his friends. Now, he is completely dependent on his mother for everything.
And Mansour is not alone.
Yemen’s war has forced 2 million children out of school, wrecking their future. Moreover, 3.7 million Yemen students consistently miss school due to the withholding of teachers’ salaries (almost 2-3rd of Yemen’s teachers have not received their salary in seven years).
Since Taliba’s takeover in 2021, Afghan women over the age of 12 have been banned from school. With the new academic year starting in March, hundreds of thousands of teenage girls remain barred from classes.
Today, 80% of Afghan girls and young women (2.5 million) are banned from school. Out of which 30% have never even gained a primary education.
Despite repeated claims of reopening schools and universities for women, the Taliban (the de facto government) has failed to follow through. The group made similar claims during its previous rule from 1996 to 2001, but the girls were banned throughout the five-year rule.
“(the ban)takes away their ability to participate in their community in a way where they can ultimately have jobs, become doctors or teachers.”Catherine Russell, Unicef (Source: al Jazeera)
While the international community has made the right to women’s education the critical condition for aid negotiation, the Taliban is only giving empty promises in return.
Can Out of the School Children Crisis be Solved?
The out-of-school children problem is multifaceted and diverse. Almost every country’s fraction of students don’t go to school, but the numbers are significantly high in war-torn and under-developed countries. Even for students who are going to school, the quality of education and learning opportunities in such countries is vastly different.
According to a recent study by the world bank, these children are at the Irish of losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings. And unless actions are taken, learning losses will continue to endanger the future of these children, nations, and the world.
Experts advise that providing school meals to students will encourage poverty-ridden families to send their children to school for food. But this will need funding from international governments and organizations.
Education- A Fundamental Right
The world has come a long way in making education a fundamental right. From only 1 out of every ten literate individuals two centuries ago to today’s 9 in 10 adults with essential reading and writing skills – we’ve made progress.
But, to tackle the current and looming world problems in the 21st century and beyond, we’ll need a strong team of educated people. It’s hard to imagine that even today, millions of children are growing up without the opportunity for education that we had. But the reality remains the same.
So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but a lot of work is still left to make education a fundamental right for every child globally.
Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe 2023: Explained
Yemen has been experiencing an armed conflict and humanitarian crisis since 2015, with seven brutal years of pain, fear, bloodshed and death. This article provides an update on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as of February 2023.
Background to Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents—Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising against the Sunni government—took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government.
Two-thirds of the Yemini Population is in Need of Humanitarian Assistance
As of February 2023, two-thirds of the Yemeni population requires humanitarian assistance. The “Houthis” forces backed by Iran, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, the internationally recognized Yemeni government, and UAE-backed forces, including the Southern Transitional Council (STC), have failed to spare Yemeni civilians grave human rights violations.
There has been a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law protections. Thus, the war has resulted in continuous incidents of abuse that have killed and injured thousands of civilians.
Nearly six million Yemenis are displaced from their homes since the beginning of the war, including 4.3 million internally displaced inside Yemen.
So far, there are no signs of the war stopping soon.
Parties to the War Responsible For Grave Human Rights Violations
Parties to the conflict in Yemen continue to commit grave human rights violations. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, the clashes between forces have led to continuous unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes against civilians.
Houthi forces have used banned antipersonnel landmines and fired artillery indiscriminately into populated areas. Moreover, Houthi forces have launched indiscriminate ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Read more: Children’s Rights in Yemen Are Teetering on the Edge of A Catastrophe.
Failed Truce in April 2022
An UN-mediated truce entered force on April 2nd 2022. The truce lasted six months, ending on October 2nd 2022. However, human rights violations continued, and the truce failed as parties broke the agreement with continued fighting and hostilities.
All parties to the conflict failed to protect innocent civilians’ lives. The truce in Yemen ended as both sides rejected a proposal presented by UN Special Envoy for Yemen to extend and expand the agreement.
However, on a brighter note, the truce brought noticeable tangible benefits to the Yemeni population. For example, access to humanitarian aid improved, and widespread economic opportunities became more readily available. Furthermore, there was a considerable decrease in violence and casualties across Yemen. A report by ACLED revealed the lowest number of reported political violence-related deaths in Yemen since January 2015.
These noticeable and valuable improvements should not ignore that political violence continued in Yemen despite the truce. Worringly, 200 people died every month during the truce due to political violence.
20 Million Yeminis’ Face Food Insecurity
The humanitarian crisis hit a dangerously dire point in 2022 due to constant obstruction of aid from reaching civilians. Houthi forces and the Yemeni government continue unnecessarily imposing restrictions and regulations on humanitarian organizations and aid projects.
Moreover, enforced disappearances are a massive problem in Yemen, with little accountability or investigations. In addition, the economy’s collapse, the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to Yemen being one of the world’s most unsettling humanitarian disasters.
More than 20 million Yemenis are facing food insecurity and have little to no access to health care services. The war has resulted in deliberate unlawful attacks against civilian homes, hospitals, schools, and bridges. For years, these war crimes have continued with impunity.
Read more: Yemen: War crimes hidden behind rampant violations.
FSO Safer Threatened a Humanitarian and Environmental Catastrophe
The FSO Safer is a “ticking time bomb”, holding an estimated 1.14 million barrels of light crude oil. Since 2015, the Safer has been stranded off the coast of Yemen.
Yemen’s national oil company owns the FSO. Due to the Yemen war, all production and export operations related to FSO are suspended. However, millions of barrels of crude oil remain onboard.
The ongoing crisis in Yemen has made the Safer too dangerous to move. According to the UN, the Safer could explode or rupture anytime, threatening an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. This dire situation could quickly become one of the worst oil spills in history, devastating Yemen and the environment. Luckily, a two-stage UN-coordinated plan to prevent the Safer from exploding or breaking apart was initiated in March 2022.
In September 2022, the UN stated it had raised sufficient funds to initiate a four-month-long operation to transfer oil from the Safer to a secure vessel. Following this first step, a second stage will involve installing a replacement vessel within 18 months. The rescue mission is estimated to cost up to $115 million for both stages.
However, despite these initiated plans, recent efforts to rescue the Safer have been unsuccessful due to the region’s ongoing conflict.
Yemini Women’s and Girl’s Rights Under Threat
The Houthi rebels continue discriminating against girls and women and restricting their freedom and rights. There have been significant systematic violations of women’s and girls’ rights. The de facto law in Houthi-controlled areas requires women to travel with a mahram (a close male relative or their husband). In addition, evidence of written permission from their male guardian will also suffice.
Women’s access to healthcare services, particularly reproductive healthcare, have severely limited since the war began. Furthermore, women’s dress code, access to education and freedom of expression is severely controlled and limited by men.
The eight-year war in Yemen has caused immense suffering, and a recent UNDP report estimated that the number of those killed due to Yemen’s war could reach 1.3 million by 2030. Furthermore, the death toll from Yemen’s war is estimated to reach 377,000 by the end of 2021. To put matters into perspective, an estimated 70% of those killed will be children under the age of five years.
The evidence discussed in this article reveals alarming discoveries which must be addressed immediately. Mainly associated with girls’ and women’s rights, environmental threats, food insecurities and an increased number of civilians needing humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, an increasingly worsening economy, decimated public infrastructure, and a year-on-year decline in humanitarian funding have put Yemenis’ lives under direct threat.
The situation in Yemen is a complex protection crisis at its very core. Many Yemenis struggle to live in safety and dignity and enjoy basic fundamental rights or access to essential services.
This worrying reality must be addressed and changed in 2023 with more focused attention on protecting and upholding human rights for everyone.
The Repatriation of ISIS Children Detained in Camps in Northeast Syria 2022
ISIS Detainees Denied Basic Human Rights
For the past four years, thousands of prisoners, primarily women and children, from the Islamic State (ISIS), have been arbitrarily detained in camps in northeast Syria. Approximatley, 42,200 people are currently detained in the camps despite the recently increased repatriation of women and children. Recent Turkish air and artillery strikes have exacerbated the dangerous circumstances in the camps. These Turkish strikes cut off electricity and stopped the water supply. They severely impacted fuel and food deliveries and detainees’ access to medical services in the Al-Hol and Roj camps.
In 2022, many children in the camps drowned in sewage pits, died in tent fires, and several were run over by water trucks. Furthermore, hundreds died from preventable illnesses due to very limited access to healthcare. Prisoners have no legal basis or the possibility of reviewing the legality of their arbitrary detention. This severely undermines international human rights protections. The prisoner’s humanitarian situation is continuously deteriorating. They are subject to inhumane and degrading conditions with limited access to basic necessities and fundamental rights.
Background to ISIS Camps
Al-Hol and Roj are two camps in northeast Syria primarily holding the wives and children of male ISIS suspects. Among the prisoners, approximately 18,000 are from Syria, 28,000 are from neighbouring Iraq, and more than 10,000 are from 60 other countries. Shockingly, the prisoners consist of 60% children. Of these children, nearly 80% are under age 12, and 30% are age five or younger.
Read also: Syria: A Growing Humanitarian Crisis Amid the Russia-Ukraine Conflict.
The conditions in the camps have created a children’s rights catastrophe. The camp conditions are deplorable, as continued violence resulted in the death of nearly 100 people in 2021.
The Political and Legal Hot Potato of Repatriation
The repatriation of women and children from camps in northeast Syria has been a very controversial and complex legal issue for countries for many years. The Committee on the Rights of the Child and numerous UN Special Rapporteurs have continuously demanded that states repatriate their nationals trapped in these camps.
Unfortunately, many countries contest these demands and make inconsistent responses to the ongoing human rights violations. However, several European countries recently began to increase the repatriation of women and children from the camps. For example, Germany and Denmark repatriated 37 children and 11 women. The Netherlands repatriated five women and 11 children. Belgium repatriated 16 children and six women. Sweden repatriated 20 children and ten women. More recently, France repatriated 35 children and 16 women.
Moreover, the table below illustrates the number of children, women and men that were repatriated by country.
Landmark Jurisprudence: HF and others v France
On September 14th 2022, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a consequential judgment in HF and others v France. In this case, two grandparents initiated proceedings at the ECtHR. The case was filed against France for their unwillingness to repatriate their grandchildren and daughter from ISIS camps in Syria.
On the one hand, the judgement laid down substantial implications and guidelines for France and other countries in similar situations. European states must now follow concrete and defined obligations flowing from this decision. Consequently, the judgement can speed up repatriation processes and force a potential political reckoning.
On the other hand, the judgement is rather disappointing. It does not order the repatriation of these individuals back to France. Moreover, it does not imply that France has the jurisdiction to protect the rights of its nationals under these circumstances.
From an international legal perspective, the ECtHR does recognize some positive obligations in the extraterritorial context in this judgment. These positive obligations stem from issues concerning the age, health, and safety of the children.
ECtHR and CRC Committee Deliver Differing Approaches in HF and others v France
Notably, the ECtHR ruling diverted from the approach used by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee). The CRC Committee went much further in recognizing the states’ jurisdiction in this case. The Committee found in 2020 that France exercised jurisdiction over the children detained in Syria camps.
“the state of the children’s nationality has the capability and the power to protect the rights of the children in question by taking action to repatriate them or provide other consular responses.”cOMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, HF and others v France (2020).
Furthermore, on a positive note, the ECtHR’s judgement addresses misconceptions about the barriers to repatriation due to national security implications. The decisions clarified that EU states have access to the Syrian camps and have previously successfully repatriated nationals without serious consequences.
The court’s decision strongly indicates that states do not have a convincing legal argument for denying repatriation requests. This explicitly applies to vulnerable children who have had their fundamental rights violated for over four years.
Repatriated Children Integrating Well in New Countries
According to a November 2022 report released by Human Rights Watch, many of the children repatriated are successfully integrating. The report illustrates the experiences of approximately 100 repatriated children between 2019 and 2022. These countries included France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and Uzbekistan.
These children have been subjected to many years of life-threatening conditions. They had limited access to basic necessities such as food and water. They have witnessed and experienced unimaginable violence, abuse and neglect. Despite this, many of the repatriated children are doing well in school, making new friends and integrating smoothly.
Moving Forward & Recommendations
States can dramatically improve reintegration by quickly providing repatriated prisoners with birth certificates, identity cards, and other documents. The Autonomous Administration controls the Syrian ISIS camps and repeatedly urges states to repatriate their nationals. Additionally, they have requested an increase in aid to improve the prisoner’s disgraceful living conditions.
Although it is highly controversial, states must fulfil international human rights obligations. As highlighted in HF and others v France, states are responsible for protecting their citizens when they face serious harm. Children’s inhumane conditions in these camps call for governments to help end their nationals’ unlawful detention urgently.
In conclusion, the arbitrary detention of these prisoners amounts to collective punishment, which is considered a war crime under international law. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should only be detained as an “exceptional measure of last resort”. States must take responsibility by bringing detainees home, prioritizing the most vulnerable and providing rehabilitation and reintegration services.
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