Iran has reportedly turned to child soldiers in an attempt to crack down on the ongoing riots in the country, a tactic the Islamic Republic has used in the past and a potential violation of international law.
“The Iranian regime’s use of child soldiers is a sign of both its desperation and its abhorrent ideology,” Orde Kittrie, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital.
Kittrie’s comments come after an FDD report released Monday revealed that Iran was attempting to crush protests in the country by using minors, citing recent pictures that have emerged on social media showing children wearing Basij militia uniforms, which is a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The FDD also pointed to a report in New York Magazine that highlighted the Iranian demonstrators, with one protester detailing the actions police have taken to quell the unrest.
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“Alongside the uniformed police stood many more plainclothes Basiji units. Some of them were clearly minors,” one Iranian protester told the outlet.
The use of child soldiers to quell protests would not be the first time Iran has used children in conflict situations, FDD points out.
“This is far from the first time the Iranian regime has abused children in this way. During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, Iran used boys as young as 9 in human wave attacks and to clear minefields,” Kittrie said. “These children were sent into battle without weapons but with ‘keys to paradise’ hung around their necks. They were often bound together by ropes in groups of 20 to prevent desertions.”
The use of child soldiers to quell the protests could be a violation of international law, with the report noting that Iran joined the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention in 2002, which prohibits forced service or recruitment of children under 18 for use in armed conflict.
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The protests in Iran, which were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was in the custody of the country’s morality police, have continued for over a month. The widespread protests triggered an effort by the Iranian regime to crack down, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people.
But the regime’s efforts to put a stop to the demonstrations have also been unsuccessful, leading to the government’s reported change in tactics.
“The Iranian regime may well be using children to crush protests because they can’t find enough grown men who are willing to engage in violence against women and other peaceful protesters seeking freedom and democracy,” Kittrie said.
The news also comes amid reports that Iran has accelerated its assistance to the Russian war effort in Ukraine, providing Russian forces with missiles and drones that have been used to strike targets around the country, including in civilian areas.
Iran has also reportedly closed in on acquiring a nuclear weapon, a reality many experts fear will further destabilize the Middle East and embolden Iran.
Taken together, Kittrie argued that it was important for the U.S. to act aggressively to begin deterring Iran and stand on the side of human rights.
“The U.S. must take all necessary steps to prevent that regime from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Kittrie said. “If the Iranian regime is so comfortable sacrificing its children’s lives, can we really count on deterrence to prevent it from sacrificing ours?”
“The Biden administration should fully implement the U.S. laws that require the U.S. government to spotlight and penalize the use of child soldiers, in this case to spotlight and penalize Iranian officials involved in the use of children as militia members suppressing protests,” he added. “Doing so would comply with U.S. law and help remind the international community of the Iranian regime’s moral depravity. It is also one way of sending a message of support to the Iranian protesters.”