Child soldiers are recruited by government-aligned militias to fight Islamic State forces in Mosul, Human Rights Watch has learned. The NGO urges Iraq’s allies to take action as the US-led coalition plans to retake the Iraqi city before year-end.
Speaking to witnesses on the ground the HRW discovered that two tribal militias who are taking part in the fight for Mosul recruited at least seven children from the Debaga camp in August.
The camp itself houses displaced persons who fled Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from an area near Mosul. The HRW found that people living in the camp since March attested to seeing at least two militia groups, commanded by Sheikh Nishwan al-Jabouri and by Maghdad al-Sabawy, recruit from the camp for months.
Witnesses told the NGO that they have seen trucks arriving empty to the camps but driving away with new recruits, which sometimes included underage boys. On the evening of August 14, camps residents reported seeing some 250 recruits being taken away by Sheikh al-Jabouri’s forces, with seven boys among them.
The boys were said to be then driven to a town 7km from the front lines with IS, closer to Mosul, where Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are preparing for an offensive to drive the terrorists from the city.
An unnamed aid worker revealed to the HRW that recruiting from the camps was part of the government-backed militias’ plan to reinforce the front line with terrorists. The NGO has also documented that Iraqi Shiite militias as well used child soldiers to fight IS forces.
On the other side of the front, militia’s young soldiers are to be met by the so-called ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’, child combatants recruited and trained by IS.
“This is a violation of international law that Iraq has voluntarily signed up to,” HRW’s senior children’s rights worker in the region, Bill van Esveld, told RT on Wednesday.
“These cases of child recruitment that we have documented should prompt real oversight not only from Iraqi government, but also its allies such as the United States which have been supporting the Iraqi armed forces,” he said.