#ChildrenNotSoldiers: Saving Syria's child fighters

#ChildrenNotSoldiers: Saving Syria's child fighters
A new campaign aims to combat the recruitment of child soldiers in Syria by spreading awareness through posters, graffiti and meetings with parents and children in several Syrian areas.
2 min read
26 May, 2016
Nearly 500 soldiers under the age of 18 were recruited in Aleppo and Idlib [Getty]

A group of activists have launched a new campaign to combat the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups fighting in Syria.

Children not soldiers was launched in response to a recruitment campaign by al-Nusra Front in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, where nearly 500 soldiers under the age of 18 were recruited.

The campaign's graffiti and posters cover the walls of Aleppo and Idlib, urging children to stay away from weapons and focus on their education.

"Live your childhood without weapons," reads one of their slogans. "A child's weapon is his education."

Founder Asim Zedan told The New Arab that the campaign had contacted activists, teachers and influential people to hold meetings with children and their parents in the two cities and their suburbs.

"We also posted our slogans on the walls of schools and public spaces, where most people pass by, in addition to handing out flyers explaining the dangers of their recruitment," he said.

"We have documented cases of children between the ages of 14 and 18 carrying weapons and joining armed groups," he added.

Parents forcing their children to carry weapons sometimes have financial or religious motives, Zedan explained, but others simply want to feel powerful through their armed children.

According to Zedan, poverty and deteriorating education are among the reasons behind the growing number of child soldiers in many areas in Syria.

The campaign's graffiti and posters cover the walls
of Syrian towns [The New Arab]

"The campaign aims to spread awareness," Zedan said, "and it is only a step in a long road that requires efforts by international and humanitarian organisations to find solutions, such as creating entertainment and vocational centres."

Last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 52 child soldiers, all under the age of 16.

The children had reportedly been part of IS's "Cubs of the Caliphate" programme, which provides intense military and religious training to children throughout its areas of control in Syria.

"Pure and simply, they brainwash them. They say to these kids, 'look at the regime, who kills indiscriminately, and the Kuffar [non-believers], they can never offer you a better life. You need to join the IS'," Ramy Abdul Rahman, the founder of the London-based activist group told The New Arab at the time.