Children abducted from school to join forces in Somalia

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According to BBC News, Human Rights Watch has reported that children in Somalia have been abducted from their classrooms, taken to training camps and forced to fight for Islamist militants.

Child soldiers have been used in Somalia for quite some time. The boys are used as soldiers on the front lines, while girls are forced to be the “wives” of al-Shabab fighters.

However, the recent use of child soldiers is different because of “the scale and violence of the forcible recruitment by al-Shabab since 2010,” according to the article.

According to the article, “‘Over the course of the last two years, al-Shabab has increasingly been forcibly abducting children – not only from their homes, but also from their schools and playing fields,’ HRW researcher Laetitia Bader told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.”

The use of child soldiers has been prevented under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The optional protocol sets 18 years old as the minimum age to engage in warfare.

However, this protocol has not stopped many nations- predominantly in Africa and parts of Asia- from using child soldiers in combat. Since 2002, when the protocol was enforced, many nations have vowed to stop using child soldiers, and for the most part most of those nations have kept to their promise. There are some nations, like Somalia, that have continued to use them.

The U.N.’s strategy of “naming and shaming” those that continue to use child soldiers is futile and does not deter nations from doing so. In order for child soldiers not to be used in combat, the U.N. needs to come up with a more aggressive strategy, like prosecuting those who use them more often or cutting off aid/resources.

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About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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