They are the most impressionable and once taken away from their mother’s laps, they become the expendables too. In battles for hatred, greed and power, children are stripped off their childhood, sold to be soldiers and eventually, in most occasions, found tethered and torn, lifeless.
These are the children used for military reasons by several countries all over the world. With their innocence being bought and sold so often, there’s hardly anything childish about them. All you see in those young eyes are terror.
Headed by Joseph Kony, the Lord Resistant Army of Uganda started recruiting child soldiers in 1994. As an attempt to severe the bond between the child and the parents, the new recruits would often be forced to kill their parents.
Thus, a child who has never to run back to after having freshly killed his own parents enters his or her training and to become a ruthless killing machine in just a matter of time. Children who fail to hack their parents are hacked to death by the recruiters as a means to instill fear and obedience among the rest of the children.
Al-Shabaab, the Islamic militant group of Somalia has been targeting children in order to make up for the diminishing army of the group. The children are abducted from the classrooms and used as human shields for experienced soldiers. Children are thrown into the front line without adequate training and most of them lose their lives while the rest come back for grueling training.
Children who are too young too carry heavy weapons are threatened to be used as suicide bombers and out of fear, the child soldiers of Somalia take up rifles and begin their lives as terrorists as young as a 10 year old.
Allegedly, 500 to 3000 children have been recruited by the PREPAK (People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak), an insurgent group formed in 1977. Apparently, the children are abducted and taken to forests of Myanmar and trained to be insurgents.
These children are often impressed by the guns and army clothes and in a matter of time it gets too late to bring them back to a normal life. They’re ordered not to talk to strangers as they guard the Indo-Burma border with arms and ammunition in their hands. Kukis, as they are known, want an autonomous existence for themselves.
4. Central African Republic
According to recent reports, children as young as eight are being recruited by the Central African Republic. Christian anti-Balaka militia and Muslim Seleka, both, have been recruiting child soldiers and the count has gone up to 10,000 according to UN.
The alarming factor is that a major portion of these recruits are joining voluntarily out of frustration and anger due to the hellish condition of the country. A lot of these children join a militant group to avenge the murder of their loved ones by another group, and with their innocence long gone, their childhood dies young as well.
5. South Sudan
According to UNICEF, more than 15,000 children have been recruited by groups led by President Salva Kiir and the one led by former Vice President turned rebel, Riek Machar. The Civil War of South Sudan that broke out in 2013, has been devastating for the citizens and doom for the children.
Schools are the easy targets from where hundreds of children are plucked out by the army and handed over with arms. Both sides have killed civilians, pillaged and burnt down villages and unfortunately, both sides have used children in to carry out the massacre.
6. Iraq and Syria
Amerli, a town in Iraq has seen the recruitment of 10 year old boys by the Iraq Security Force supporting groups. On September 5, 2014, apparently forty boys were abducted from their Friday prayers. The children who have been forced to join the ISIL in Iraq and Syria are often regarded as the “Caliphate Cubs”.
One of the recent propaganda videos of IS shows armed children hunting down a castle in Deir Ezzor, Syria for hostages suspected to be spies. When they were found, they were executed by shots in the head at point blank range by boys as young as eight.
The drug cartel of Mexico sinks even lower with their recruitment of child soldiers as young as 11 years. Not only are these children used to smuggle drugs but they are the safest option to throw at the security forces as cannon fodder.
Young children who are fearless due to the lack of maturity are enticed with expensive guns and they can be seen in the jungles of Guatemalan borders ambushing on the patrolling Mexican army officials when they don’t even know how to properly shoot a gun. Unfortunately, the army officers are left with no choice but shoot back and their shooting skills are not flawed unlike the children they’re attacked by.
It’s estimated that the Democratic Republic of Congo has recruited more than 30,000 child soldiers and are forced to commit crimes so atrocious that any human would be scarred for life, let alone a child. According to a report by Amnesty International, a 15 year old child soldier of DRC named, Kalami, was not only forced to kill an entire family but also cut up their bodies and eat them.
He was 9 when he joined the army, had killed, burnt down and pillaged families was seen confessing at an interview that he felt his life was lost, that he has nothing that he could live for and he just can’t sleep at night.
With little regard to human rights, Burma is one the biggest recruiters of child soldiers in the world. Boys as young as 12 are taken away by the army, trained and even beaten to death if they try to escape. 12 year olds are made to burn villages, torture and execute people and carry out all sorts of atrocities on civilians.
According to the international NGO, Human Rights Watch, the count of Burmese child army is estimated to be above 70,000. Recruitment of children is not limited to the Burmese army only because there are several opposition groups in the country that recruit children as well. As a result, families in Burma are at constant fear of having their young children abducted by military groups.
Children are born into war in Afghanistan and there are generations who have never known peace in the country. On one hand, there is the Afghanistan National Police that has recruited hundred of minor boys to work as fighters, messengers, cooks and sex slaves and on the other hand, there is the Taliban who recruits young boys as suicide bombers against the ANP.
Not to mention the Al Qaeda who, a few years ago, showed the world through a video how one of their recruits, a 12 year old boy, beheads a Pakistani man who was accused of being a spy.