In an exclusive interview with Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (IKHRW) on the question of child recruitment in Kurdish armed groups, Osman Bashaghali, a Kurdish journalist, believes that “we cannot expect the rules and regulations of civil society to be implemented in a state of emergency and war”. Stressing the role of culture and inciting children to kill other ethnic groups in the Middle East, he added: “Poverty, unemployment and other social damages are not in the best interests of children, so the armed groups misuse this gap.” The detail of his interview with the IKHRW is as follows:
۱- Various reports on child soldiers have recently been published in the Persian-language media in the Kurdish area, which are in two forms: “These children have been either deceived and become members or abducted.” We know that these children are also Kurds and there is no place for children in the mountains and they should not be armed. They are children and do not know the truth. But why do you think the leaders of Kurdish parties and organizations are committing this immoral act?
In general, when there is a state of emergency and war, one cannot expect the law and regulations to be implemented and the atmosphere of civil society to be completely respected. This does not happen completely even sometimes in peace time. The law special for social culture is also weakened. In such circumstances, personal, party, group and ideological interests find the ground as more conducive to achieve their goals and in such an atmosphere, they try to train the people they wish, and this is within the framework of party and ideological programs. Because it also has political, economic and social dimensions. In such a situation, children yield to partisan, group or ideological demands for poverty and unemployment and various other reasons. Weakening the rules also paves the way.
A combination of such factors opens the way for the exploitation of children by parties and organizations. All the laws and rights of the world and all religions forbid the recruitment of children for inhuman purposes and consider it a grave crime; But these laws are, unfortunately in a climate of war, either abolished or weakened and replaced by political interests, utilitarianism and ideological considerations, so we see the children become one of the main victims of such an atmosphere. That is, they become members of parties and organizations and are used as armed fighters. This bitter phenomenon exists not only in Kurdistan, but also in various other regions. In the Middle East, for example, in Syria, Yemen and even Iraq, there is this ominous phenomenon. In the past, we have seen radical and extremist Islamic groups try to recruit not only children but also women for acts like suicide bombings. Unfortunately, this behavior is contrary to all human rights principles; therefore, as I said at the beginning, when the war conditions of the society provide the ground for weakening the laws, the way is opened for extremist groups.
۲-Although the leaders of these groups, especially PJAK, are aware of the effects of their misbehavior, but they continue to commit it. Isn’t this a violation of human rights, especially the rights of the Kurds? Because children are the future of society. If these groups really claim to defend the rights of the Kurds, they should not block the way for the future of children. Why is this more common among the PKK / PJAK? In Sinjar, we also saw Yazidi Kurds protestagainst the PKK many times. They complain that their children are being abducted. What is the reason for the high frequency of child soldiers in the PKK / PJAK?
Not only the PKK / PJAK, but all ideological parties, think that the whole truth is only with them and the non-members of their party are completely wrong and have no right to say anything and only consider themselves as the center of world. Unfortunately, these parties, both left, right, and social, are all self-centered and narrow-minded. At the same time, I would like to make a point about Shangal/Sinjar. I personally spoke to the PKK officials about the Yazidi child soldiers in Sinjar. They said, “We do not recruit anyone against our will, whether a child or an adult. If someone does not come with will and belief, we can not accept. This membership is useless.” But I must say that only Yazidi youth join the PKK but the Arab youth of Mosul are also in Qandil as a member of the PKK. They go to Turkey and fight. This is ideological. When one is young and does not know what life is, one is easily influenced by ideology and sometimes so melted in it that one is ready to sacrifice oneself for it. This is where we see an Arab influenced by the PKK ideology goes to fight Turkey. This is strange. This person was is abducted, but indoctinated.
۳- Let’s suppose a person joins with interest, but when he is a child and does not know, why do the leaders of the parties, even though they know that this child is 12 or 13 years old and his membership is illegal, accept him as an underage member?
I do not know what these parties think about the matter, but this action is against the law and rights. Perhaps these cases have an individual aspect and children are imagined as a tree in order to be educated for the future the organization. In the Kurdish parties on today’s Kurdistan Region also were recruiting children during the armed war with Saddam. We should not ignore the role of culture either. In Middle Eastern culture, even in stories retold to children, there is a culture of promoting the use of weapons by children. This is also an important point and prepares the children for violence and guns. This culture is also available among the Arabs and the Turks. We saw Erdogan bring Turkish children to the battlefield and indoctrinate them a culture of war, saying that the Kurds are all infidels and terrorists. This extremism also has consequences for the Kurdish community. When Erdogan places the children of Central Asia in the Kurdish regions and declares the Kurds as enemies and infidels, and considers the killing of the Kurds as permissible, he undoubtedly creates this psychological atmosphere in the Kurdish children as well, and the children fall victim to the political atmosphere. Everything is interrelated. But in general, arming children is an illegal and inhumane act and has a negative impact on the future of society.