How Iran's Government Recruits and Trains Child Soldiers

Independent online news site IranWire released a shocking, in-depth report of the Islamic Republic’s use of child soldiers during the massive protests that rocked the country since the death of Mahsa Amini under police custody in September 2022.

The UK-based Iranian news site published a comprehensive special feature detailing the history of Iran’s use and training of child soldiers since the establishment of the Islamic Republic after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The report also heavily emphasized the regime’s use of children as human shields and riot police amidst the ongoing rallies against the government.

The report showed several photos of teenage boys trained by Iranian security forces to deal with warfare and urban riots, with the oldest image dating back to 2016. Most of the children were between the ages of 12 to 17. The pictures saw teenage boys wearing anti-riot gear and holding assault rifles.

Along with the paramilitary Basij, the Revolutionary Guards extensively used children as security and anti-riot forces in various parts of Iran during the protests, including the capital Tehran.

While Iranian authorities allowed them to do whatever they wanted to suppress protesters, they were also used as human shields, being intentionally put in harm’s way so that security forces could use them to accuse demonstrators of violence.

The media outlet also documented one case of a child soldier, identified as Abbas Rajabi, being injured after Iranian security forces mistakenly took him for a protester. IranWire has shared a photo of his X-Ray showing pellets in his body taken in September last year.

The Iranian regime’s use of child soldiers to suppress civilian protests has intensified over the past few months since the beginning of the Mahsa Amini protests. Nevertheless, IranWire also noted that the regime had been using children to squash civil unrest long before that, such as in 2011 when the Guardian reported Tehran’s use of child soldiers to quell protests.

While the Iranian government has denied using children in warfare and urban riots before, and the Iranian ambassador to the UN even said that a vote in favor of a 1983 resolution asking the country to stop recruiting child soldiers “can only be considered as a hostile political stance against the Islamic Republic of Iran,'' the regime has regularly bragged about using children in warfare and urban combat situations.

For instance, the Islamic Republic News Agency wrote a report on the Student Basiji Organization in October 2019. They romanticized the ordeal many Basiji students endured during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

During the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, more than 550,000 Basiji students participated in the war and offered their country more than 36,000 martyrs, 2,853 missing in action, and 2,433 prisoners of war. Martyr Mohammad Hassan Fahmideh was one of these Basiji students.” the IRNA wrote.

Iranian government media also released reports providing evidence of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's direct role in deploying children in war.

Training and deploying child soldiers in war is prohibited under International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention. According to international law, using children as soldiers in war also qualifies as a war crime.

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