A report released to mark Red Hand Day, the international day against the use of child soldiers, found that the number of children being abused as child soldiers in armed conflicts around the world has more than doubled, with almost 30,000 recruitment cases verified despite international laws that prohibit the practice.
According to the report released by Child Soldiers International, a London-based human rights organization, the number of child soldiers involved in conflicts globally increased 159 percent between 2012 and 2017.
"Ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and persistent unrest in Somalia, South Sudan, Congo, Central African Republic and elsewhere are all leaving children increasingly exposed to recruitment," the report said. Aside from being forced into battle, children are also being forced to work as scouts or to cook and collect wood. Some girls are forced to marry militants, while boys and girls alike are being sexually abused. "Boys and girls are routinely being used as fighters and at checkpoints, as informants, to loot villages and as domestic and sexual slaves," the report also added. In extreme cases, children have been forced to act as living shields or to blow themselves up on busy squares.
Feb. 12 also marks the anniversary of the signing of a protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that forbids the use of children in conflict. Under international law, the recruitment of children by armed groups is prohibited, even if the children "volunteer." Also, the recruitment or use of children under 15 is designated a war crime.
The use of child soldiers continues unabated by armed groups like al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Taliban and Daesh across the world. In Syria, the recruitment of child soldiers by the PKK terrorist organization and its Syrian branch, the People's Protection Units (YPG), have long been documented by international rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations. However, the issue has not received the desired attention in Western media. Locals in areas under the YPG/PKK terrorist group's control have long said the terrorist group forcefully takes a child from each family to join its lines, and if they do not have children, then they are forced to pay the group financially.
Children living in the vicinity of long-running conflicts in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Congo, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have been enlisted by opposing sides in the violence. School-age boys and girls are also being used as soldiers or helpers for armed groups in Afghanistan, Mali and Myanmar.