Children are the future of our world; they are our progeny. Minors are dependent on us, the adults, no matter where they live and who their parents are. They are the innocents who have a long way to go to be able to separate the grain from the chaff. They are the pure souls who believe in a bright life.
However, there is a mindset that tries to blacken these pure souls with the darkness of war. According to a statement by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, about 12,000 children have lost their lives since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Tens of thousands of them who survived lead their lives severely injured or have lost their eyes, their ears or other organs. Furthermore, there is the issue of child soldiers, who are forced to learn how to use weapons and to become a part of these wars at a young age. They are being trained to fight in the front line, to serve as suicide bombers or human shields.
In many civil wars, particularly in Africa, children are abused by armed groups. It is known that children are extensively recruited in armed conflicts in countries such as Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Reports show that child soldiers are forced by non-state actors to participate in the civil wars that broke out in countries such as Libya, Syria and Iraq. For instance, during the civil war in Libya, it was claimed that child soldiers were responsible for the security of the buildings together with Zwaya and Tabu units in Kufra and carried weapons.
There are at least 300,000 child soldiers being forced to fight in 30 different conflicts across the globe.
During the 17-year long war in Afghanistan, many children were used as soldiers as well so much so that 45 percent of the soldiers were children under the age of 18. 20 percent of the soldiers in Myanmar's Army are under-aged. One third of the soldiers in Yemen are known to be children and there are currently 16,000 child soldiers fighting in South Sudan.
'I became a good person'
Anyone can read the pain that surfaces in Simon's eyes, a 12-year-old former child soldier from South Sudan, when he utters the following words on his years of service in the army:
"Being back home is better than being in the military because in the military, when you make a mistake, they take you to jail and they beat you for weeks. I was cooking and washing clothes, I became a bodyguard. So, when I was released as a soldier and they (UNICEF) took me to the care center, I became a good person. There, no one disturbed me. No one beat me. And I received food. I do not think small children should be soldiers."
Although extensive initiatives are carried out later on for these children who are forced to fight, it is not possible to completely remove the scars of violence. Therefore, serious efforts should be made by political leaders and social authority figures to find immediate solutions to ongoing political conflicts, to make sure that civilian populations and particularly children are kept out of these conflicts and to prevent the outbreak of any new wars.
According to the Paris Principles, child soldiers are defined as "children associated with armed forces or armed groups." This definition includes not only the children who are directly involved in armed conflicts but all of those children who are abused for various support roles, such as cooking or portering, reporting, laying mines, spying or for sexual purposes. Consequently, all of the children who are associated with armed groups meet this definition.
According to the First Article of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, "a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years." The definition of "a child" is crystal clear in international law; however, such definitions do not change the reality of the world. There has been a significant increase in wars, and more and more children are being recruited in armed conflicts. Their young minds, easily intimidated by fear, threats or any other reason, are recruited as soldiers not only by armed insurgency groups but also by some governments. This increases the number of children who are orphaned, who witness the death of their families and friends, and who suffer the fear and misery of war every day.
Despite international actions and the sincere efforts being made by the international law, the use of "Child Soldiers" is still on the agenda as an unresolved issue. However, it is of course not possible to accept abandoning our children, who are our most precious treasure and our future, to such horrors.
Everyone should work together to resolve this problem and conscientious people, who certainly imagine a world in which all children, without any exceptions, live a happy life, should endeavor to rectify this terrible situation at once. International commissions should be established regarding this issue and campaigns should be carried out together with the media on all fronts. The non-governmental organizations, already striving hard to achieve world peace, should deal with the issue as a priority as well. Institutions such as the United Nations should place the solutions to this terrible situation experienced by child soldiers at the top of their agenda.
It should be noted that this is not a problem that can be solved by a single state or a community. Carrying out worldwide campaigns on this issue — and if necessary, imposing sanctions on those countries which insist upon the use of child soldiers — are some of the solutions that could be offered immediately. The meetings in which world leaders come together, such as the G-20, for example, are important opportunities to take concrete steps and precautions in this regard.
Everyone should go the extra mile to press the issue and mold public opinion so that children do not become the soldiers of violence. Certainly, what should really be done is to be determined to put an end to ever-increasing conflicts, wars and disturbances and resort to diplomatic solutions.
No issue has ever been resolved by military methods thus far, nor could anything ever be resolved in that manner. All those people who dream of a world in which children will grow up in love, kindness, compassion, peace and brotherhood and be happy, should strive together to wipe this affront from the face of the Earth forthwith.
Adnan Oktar's piece in The China Post & Jefferson Corner: