by WorldTribune Staff, October 1, 2017
Iran has recruited children as young as 14 to fight in the Syrian conflict, a rights group said.
Afghan immigrant children living in Iran are recruited by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to fight in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Teheran that fights alongside government forces in Syria, according to an Oct. 1 report by Human Rights Watch.
“Iran should immediately end the recruitment of child soldiers and bring back any Afghan children it has sent to fight in Syria,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“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.”
Under international law, recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.
Human Rights Watch said its researchers “reviewed photographs of tombstones in Iranian cemeteries where the authorities buried combatants killed in Syria, and identified eight Afghan children who apparently fought and died in Syria.”
Iranian media reports confirmed some of the cases and reported at least six more instances of Afghan child soldiers who died in Syria. Family members told Iranian media that they were children who had misrepresented their age in order to join the Fatemiyoun division.
According to IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News, the Fatemiyoun division has about 14,000 fighters.
Afghan fighters have also said they have seen children in training camps for Afghan forces. “Ali,” a 29-year-old Afghan, told Human Rights Watch in August that he talked to 16 and 17-year-old child soldiers who were being trained to fight in Syria.
“They never asked me to show any documentation, but they wanted to make sure we were Afghan nationals,” Ali told Human Rights Watch. “We had to be above the age 18 to be recruited, but they only asked for our age, not any documentation.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration said it is adding Iran to a list of countries it accuses of failing to crack down on human trafficking.
The White House on Sept. 30 said that, along with Iran, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, and Sudan would be added to the list.
Along with Russia, countries already on the list that are facing further restrictions are North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria. Those countries would be constrained from engaging in educational or cultural exchange programs with the United States, the White House said.
The U.S. executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and U.S. executive directors at other multilateral development banks have been ordered by the Trump administration to vote against extending loans or other funds to Russia, Iran, or North Korea for fiscal year 2018, which begins on Oct. 1.
Under a 2000 law, the United States does not provide nonhumanitarian or nontrade-related assistance to countries that fail to meet minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.