Iranian state-run television has broadcast a report showcasing a 13-year-old sent to Syria to fight on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad, allegedly under the guidance of Iran’s terror chief, General Qasem Soleimani.
The report claims Iran is “proud” to send its children to fight in the civil war.
On Saturday, Iran’s state-run TV, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), aired a video showing a 13-year-old child soldier, named Nemati, speaking about fighting in Syria under Soleimani’s guidance. Soleimani is the commander of Iran’s Quds Forces:
“As I said to Qasem Soleimani, defending Zeinab is every Shia’s purpose,” the child said.
According to Shia Islam tradition, the Zeinab mosque, located in the southern city of Sayyidah Zainab in Damascus, Syria, contains the grave of Zainab, the daughter of Ali and Fatimah and the granddaughter of Muhammad.
Sunni Muslims believe Zainab’s tomb is located in Cairo, Egypt.
After interviewing the child soldier who said he is from Mazandaran, in the north of Iran, the reporter said, “Mash-allah,” which means “God has willed it” and is often stated as a word of praise in Persian. “He is the youngest child fighter” here, the reporter said and went on to say, “It was marvelous for us to see such a self-realized martyr [shahid] at the age of 13.”
The video was filmed in Abu Kamal, Syria, considered the Islamic State’s last stronghold in the war-ravaged country.
At one point in the video, the reporter asked the child soldier if he was aware that he could die, to which the child replied, “Yes.” He then asked, “Weren’t you worried?” The 13-year-old responded, “Not at all. Martyrdom is an honor I aspire to.” The reporter reacted with, “Masha-allah. Masha-allah.”
The youth was surrounded by several gunmen.
The reporter then asked the child, “What do you have to say to the terrorist and the Americans?” He replied, “I am very happy. To the Americans, I say Islam is victorious and will win in the end.”
The reporter then asked, “And to your fellow countrymen, what do you say, my sweet little brother?” The child said, “I support all those who put their lives on the line and especially those who give their lives for Islam.”
The use of child soldiers is against international conventions to which Iran has claimed to be party.
In 1977, Additional Protocols were added to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to prohibit the military recruitment – by both government-controlled and non-state armed forces – and use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers.
In 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child also defined a child for the first time as any person under the age of 18.
In 2000, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) raised this standard to the age of 18.
This action was once again recognized as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 2002.
In October, Human Rights Watch released a report where it called for the United Nations and the international community to investigate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) recruitment of mostly Afghan children, living in Iran, to fight as soldiers in Syria.
The report also called on U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to add Iran to “his annual list of perpetrators of violations against children based on evidence of child recruitment.”
“Iran should immediately end the recruitment of child soldiers and bring back any Afghan children it has sent to fight in Syria,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Rather than preying on vulnerable immigrant and refugee children, the Iranian authorities should protect all children and hold those responsible for recruiting Afghan children to account.”
The tombstones of these martyred children soldiers in Iran included children as young as 14.