(CNSNews.com) –A Lebanese television channel recently aired a special on child soldiers, featuring an interview with a 12-year-old sniper who joined a group fighting in opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad after his father was killed on the battlefield.
“I get up in the morning and try to shoot some soldiers,” Midyan Abu Al-Qa’qa’ says on the program, which was translated from LDC TV by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI).
“Sometimes I manage to shoot one or two, and sometimes I don’t. There’s nothing to it. I feel fine. I killed my first soldier on this front. When I killed him, I didn’t feel anything. He was the first, but then came a second, and a third…I’ve gotten used to being a sniper,” the pre-teen says.
(MEMRI) posted a portion of the special on YouTube:
According to the video's narrator, Midyan “voluntarily joined the ranks of the fighters after his father was killed in battle in the south of Idlib.” He currently is a sniper in the Wadi Deif Camp, which is located east of Maarat Al-Nu’man in northwestern Syria.
“We will continue the revolution until we win or become martyrs,” Midyan tells the reporters.
The video also shows other child soldiers, and quotes a Syrian veteran who says, “Children make the best soldiers. When you give them orders, they obey. They never doubt anything.”
The narrator describes the circumstances under which thousands of child soldiers under the age of 18 become soldiers.
“Sometimes they are urged to come by those older than them, but in most cases, they arrive on their own accord, in order to fight for the sake of their families and their country, Syria,” the narrator says.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in June accusing Syrian armed groups of violating international law by using children as soldiers, noting that “conscripting or enlisting children under 15, including for support roles, is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
HRW detailed the experiences of 25 Syrian child soldiers such as “Majed,” 16, who told HRW that Jabhat al-Nusra in Daraa recruited him and other boys in his community by providing free schooling at a local mosque that included military training and target practice.
He said that commanders asked children as well as adults to sign up for suicide attacks. “Sometimes fighters volunteered, and sometimes [commanders] said, ‘Allah chose you.’”
Seventeen-year-old “Saleh” told HRW that he began fighting with the Free Syrian Army at 15 after being detained and tortured by government security forces. He later joined two other armed groups.
“I thought of leaving [the fighting] a lot,” he said. “I lost my studies, I lost my future, I lost everything.”
Thousands of children have taken up arms in the region.
“The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates there are about 5,300 child fighters among the opposition,” the Los Angeles Times reports, “not including extremist groups such as Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front or Islamic State, and 2,000 with pro-government forces, most between the ages of 14 and 17.”
Syrian armed groups shouldn’t prey on vulnerable children – who have seen their relatives killed, schools shelled, and communities destroyed – by enlisting them in their forces,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, HRW's Middle East children’s rights researcher and author of the report.
“The horrors of Syria’s armed conflict are only made worse by throwing children into the front lines.”