Islamists making use of child soldiers and cluster bombs

Two Human Rights Watch reports have been published, denouncing the recruitment campaigns of Islamists, that have targeted children (http://www.hrw.org/node/126063/) and their use of cluster bombs in Syria (www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/01/syria-evidence-islamic-state-cluster-munition-use). Bashar Al-Assad's regime has also been documented to be massively using cluster bombs.

Child soldiers

Youngsters have been trained and armed by ISIS in order to undertake suicide attacks. Other groups, like the Free Syrian Army, the Al-Nusra Front, or the Islamic Front, are also using child soldiers. The death of at least 194 child soldiers has been documented by the Violations Documentation Center in Syria. The report could not cover the use of child soldiers by pro-government militias for obvious security reasons.

The NGO has asked 25 child soldiers to testify. They narrate how they have been sent to participate to the fights, to act as snipers or as guards in checkpoints, to look after injured people on the front or to resupply fighters. 16-years-old « Majed » says he was hired by Jabhat al-Nusra in his town of Daraa, together with other youngsters in the city. He was offered free lessons in a local mosque, including a military training and exercises to target shooting. Commanders had demanded adults and children to commit suicid attacks. Sometimes they handpicked soldiers (telling them « Allah has chosen you »), sometimes fighters volunteered.

« Amr » fought with ISIS in northern Syria when he was 15. He testified his chiefs invited him and other children to volunteer for suicide attacks. He said he signed grudgingly but managed to escape before the coming of his turn.

The Free Syrian Army ensured HRW its Supreme Military Council had prohibited the hiring and use of childs in its Proclamation of Principles. But the NGO noticed the opposite, and a number of FSA commanders say they still accept the participation of children. A Kurdish military chief said its armed group will de-mobilize all combatants under 18 before August. Police and military rules in Kurdistan prohibit the use of children but according to the NGO, young women were used at checkpoints or to take part in patrols.

Cluster bombs

On July 12 and August 14, according to HRW, Islamic State jihadists have used cluster bombs against Kurdish fighters in the Alep province. It may not be the only occurrence in which they used this prohibited weapon. The weapon were used in fights near the Aïn al-Arab Kurdish enclave, near the Turkish border.

HRW relies on Kurdish reports and on pictures to make the claim. It seems it is the first time jihadists are making use of these weapons, and it is unclear how they could get the weapons, but one hypothesis could be they took possession of Syrian army stocks.

Cluster bombs can be fired by artillery or planes. They send on a small area grapes of smaller bombs, which in turn kill and hurt when they explode, sometimes much later.

They have also been used massively by the Syrian regime. HRW has gathered proof that at least 249 cluster bombs were fired by the regime since mid-2012.

The Syrian government, like the USA and Israel, has not signed the treaty forbidding the Convention on Cluster Munitions. An embargo on arms should be imposed on the Syrian government and on the other armed groups that are systematically violating human rights.

Author suggests cultural parenthood between the Islamic State and Attila

Stephen L. Carter, a professor of law and Bloomberg View columnist, suggests that there is a cultural similarity between the steppe nomads that harassed empires between antiquity and the Middle Ages. They sacked cities and conquered vast swathes of land through cavalry assaults. The most significant successes were obtained by Gengis Khan, but the Scythians, another group of steppe warriors, ruled a region actually contiguous to the current territory controlled by the Islamic State. Stephen L. Carter notes that Attila hired skilled engineers, many of them Romans, to understand how to beat the defensive technologies of the West. Similarly, Baghdadi is hiring many Westerners to fight along his troops. Gengis Khan also hired many experts, most of them Chinese, and forced prisoners to dig tunnels and build catapults.

Emmanuel Todd, in his last work, « L'Origine des Structures Familiales », also argues that Eurasian warriors have been the main carriers of social change in China and in the Middle East. In both regions, the invasions have contributed to the importation of a « fourth layer » of organisation (called « communautarism ») above the locally-developed « souche » family model. This means that family structures have gained one level of authoritarianism through imitation of the organisational system of the nomadic invaders (especially their military organisation and a reduced social status for women).

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