Making of a Child SoldierAlthough using children as soldiers is horrifying and illegal, recruiters are employing children every day. In fact, as the war in the Middle East spreads, these recruiters are enlisting children more frequently than before. The extremist groups in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, are breaking international war laws on a daily basis in using child soldiers. It is a constant battle for these children as they often have to choose between becoming a soldier and living or becoming another victim of the war.

The Making of a Child Soldier

In recent years, the number of children recruited to fight in the Middle East has doubled, which means more children are becoming being put in danger. Not only is there an emotional and physical battle for these children but also for the soldiers that are fighting against the extremist groups. With the war continuing in Iran, nearly 200 child soldiers have been killed in the last couple of years. In October 2018, there were still 19,000 children who were laying their lives on the line in South Sudan. Many of these children are in poverty and do not know where to turn next.

The making of a child soldier is complicated and influenced by the child’s circumstances. Since several African and Middle Eastern countries are in the middle of a war crisis, families are more likely to become displaced and slide deeper into poverty. Sudanese soldiers are offering families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight the war in Yemen although Saudi Arabia has denied their recruitment. That amount of money is huge to families that have been living on the streets. Several reports state that these Sudanese children fighters make 20 cents a day in the war.

Being poor, separated from their families and without access to education can all contribute to making a child soldier. Often, recruiters are more likely to employ children as soldiers due to the fact that they are more manageable, more obedient and easier manipulate than adults. Children who are forced to be soldiers are given jobs like spying, guarding low-security sites and detecting mines. People do not often see these children on the front line although they can be involved in attacks. In the first months of 2015, 21 children died in suicide attacks using explosive-packed vehicles.

The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iran Government

Although these crimes are affecting the world’s most innocent and vulnerable population, several organizations are bringing hope to the children of the Middle East. Recently, the Syrian Democratic Forces have enforced a ban on using child soldiers in the war against the increasing extremist groups. The U.S. backed them on this movement. Additionally, the Treasury Department targeted ad networks of banks and businesses that have been supporting the funding of child soldiers.

Wars in the Middle East have raged for several years, and recruiters are taking advantage of the vulnerable population, but some are fighting back. Governments are undergoing initiatives and uniting together to help enforce protection for vulnerable children recruiters are most likely single out as child soldiers.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

How The State Department is Curbing Violent Extremism
In August 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry wrote a chilling letter where he outlined the roots of violent extremism — “Far too many who join the ranks of violent extremist organizations do so because they have trouble finding meaning or opportunity in their daily lives, because they are deeply frustrated and alienated — and because they hope groups, like Boko Haram, will somehow give them a sense of identity, or purpose, or power.”

Extremist groups, however, exist beyond the continent of Africa; it is a problem that concerns the international community as a whole.

The Department of State created the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which classifies extremist groups in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The FTO serves as the beginning U.S. effort to counter violent extremism.

Traditional measures to prevent the spread of violent extremism include the use of American, regional and global military force. Past strategies, however, do not address the systemic causes of extremism — poverty-stricken communities cannot provide basic necessities for its citizens.

Recently, the U.S. recognized the limitations of a force-only approach. Consequently, The White House hosted a summit on countering violent extremists, which collaborated with international organizations and civil society across the world to cultivate a new strategy.

In late May, the Department of State and the United States Agency for Development unveiled the first ever joint strategy to counter violent extremism.

The innovative diplomatic approach calls for a new application of American resources to counter violent extremism. Specifically, strengthening the capabilities of governments; increasing developmental assistance; furthering research on the origins of current extremist movements; and empowering local anti-extremist advocates.

Furthermore, Secretary Kerry expanded on the joint strategy in his article addressing the importance of community-building and countering violent extremism.

The August 2016 article notes the consequences of corruptions, as a primary contributor to violent extremism. Secretary Kerry made an impassioned plea for global leaders to use the 2 million dollars of annual money lost to corruption towards addressing basic human needs.

Providing a compelling alternative to curbing violent extremism and increasing the quality of life in vulnerable communities requires serious dedication among the international community. Americans can no longer consider the humanitarian travesty of the developing world as a far-way problem that does not concern them, because as recent events have demonstrated, failing to counter violent extremism has reached American shores.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr