Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a report accusing Shiite militias in Iraq of using child soldiers to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The terrorist group is widely known for also using this practice.
From Christoph Wilcke’s report:
Many militias in Iraq train or recruit children. Mytham al-Nuri was under 18 when he joined the PMF’s Badr Brigades – his father Karim is the brigades’ spokesman — and fought on the front lines in 2014. He finished high school this September. The Ali Akbar brigades’ Abbas Fighting Team unit provides military training to 15 to 18 year olds in Basra, according a member of the group who spoke to Human Rights Watch in July. The Peace Brigades, another militia group from Basra affiliated with the Sadrist Trend, trains 15 to 18 year olds, according to one of the trainers, but had not sent them to the front line “yet.”
Wilcke also mentioned Nur, an 11-year-old boy. He told HRW he fought “for several weeks alongside his father” before returning to Baghdad. They joined the First Martyr/Free Iraqis Movement, which formed under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Muthanna Qasim al-Kilabi, 15, decided to fight against ISIS in early October before school started. He joined the League of the Righteous, but died two weeks later at the Beiji refinery. He is the “youngest known combatant casualty in Iraq’s war” against ISIS.
In August, The Daily Beast reported about the Yazidi child soldiers who chose to pick up arms against ISIS. The militants targeted the minority group last year since they believe Yazidis are “devil-worshippers.” Yazidi groups have continuously requested international assistance. Few have responded, though an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has offered to train Yazidis to fight. The PKK is a Marxist group designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU, and NATO.
“I came because I got the chance to protect my people, because this isn’t the first time there’s been a Yazidi genocide,” explained 16-year-old female Ari.
She continued: “We’re going to stay in the YBŞ [Sinjar Protection Unites] because the Iraqi army already left us and the Peshmerga ran away. When our enemies came no one took care of us. The next time they come, we’ll be the protection force for the Yazidis.”
The use of child soldiers by anti-ISIS militias has not made headlines like the “Caliphate Cubs” have because these groups do not advertise their use of children the way ISIS does. They boast about their efforts with videos and pictures on social media. Militants often show off the children, “Caliphate Cubs,” in specialized training camps for kids. In October, authorities uncovered one camp in Istanbul, Turkey. Hürriyet Daily News reported that “24 of around 50 suspects of Tajik and Uzbek origin” are children that trained in those basement camps. The officers raided 18 homes in the “Pendik and Başakşehir’s Kayaşehir neighborhood.” The houses contained “battlefield maps as well as documents describing the group’s contacts in both countries.” Other evidence led authorities to believe the group intended to meet ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
A child training camp video from August 2014 included Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen leader within ISIS. The kids, who appear to be between 5 and 7 years old, wear camouflage vests and hold huge guns. In a classroom, they show off chants, songs, and military formations they learned. At one point, the boys fall to their knees, raise the guns to their eyes, and show al-Shishani they can balance the gun and aim properly.
In July 2014, a Twitter account for the jihadists released pictures and a video of a training camp in Ninevah with children. One of the youngest recruits is a 10-year-old named Abdullah.
“Our children don’t waste time on electronic games or on watching cartoons,” a gunman said for Abdullah. “They have a dream, and their dream is to establish an Islamic state. We have a lot of hope for Abdullah and other children his age. We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem.”