PREVENTING UNDERAGE FIGHTERS (with voiceover)
Independent Films, Politics, Documentaries
The UN and international human rights groups have stated that insurgent groups have used children in combat, including as suicide bombers. Some of these children, pardoned by President Karzai, speak about their experiences. Meanwhile, the Afghan National Police are working with UNAMA on a campaign to increase awareness about underage recruitment.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty signed on 4 April 1949.
NATO constitutes a system of collective defense in response to an attack by any external party.
The NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
Transcripts / Production notes / Scripts
President Karzai talks with a number of boys, all under eighteen, on the holy holiday of Eid this year. They have one thing in common apart from their youth – they were all groomed by the Taliban to be suicide bombers.
“The Taliban gave me a suicide vest and a weapon and some other people there told me to go to the PRT. When I went there, they told me to go to the Americans. When I saw the soldiers at the gate, I surrendered myself to them.”
This boy says his mother is dead and his father doesn't care about him. He begs President Karzai not to let him go, otherwise the Taliban will kill him.
The youngest of these twenty children pardoned by the President for the holiday says he was abducted by the Taliban while shopping, but managed to escape before they took him to Pakistan.
“I went to the shop and when I came out of the shop, they got me and put me in the car and we traveled and traveled and when we reached the border, I surrendered to a soldier.
A fifteen-year-old says he was given an amulet and told that when he detonated himself, he would be protected by holy text written inside while those around him died.
Over the last year, independent human rights organisations, Afghan security forces and the UN claim that hundreds of children, some as young as seven and eight years old, have been used by the insurgents in armed conflict.
“It's very attractive for armed groups to have children – that's why there are so many in the world.They're very easy to manipulate, they're scared of nothing, they're small, they're fast, they look innocent, so people won't suspect them so quickly.”
A number of suicide attacks have targeted the capital. Kabul's Police chief, General Salangi, says meeting underage fighters face-to-face is an emotional experience.
“I cannot express my feelings…. It is the biggest persecution that they are doing to our people, our children, our history and our country Afghanistan.”
On their website, the Taliban have denied using children as soldiers or suicide attackers and their own code of conduct urges fighters to protect civilians, something which ISAF says their actions on the ground contradict.
“The Taliban are killing more than 80% of the civilians that perish in this conflict through direct action. I arrived here in June and one of the first news that I read was an 8-year-old girl where Taliban put an explosive into her plastic bag, sent her to the police car. It was my introduction to Afghanistan and it hurt me deeply that children are abused in this way.”
Last year the UN blacklisted a number of armed groups like the Taliban for recruiting under-eighteens. But included also on the list were several problems with the Afghan National Police, which they say they've now addressed.
In January a special agreement was signed between the UN and the Afghan government to implement an action plan to stop underage recruitment. Here, members of the police and the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan discuss a nationwide awareness campaign to include billboards, notebooks and even mugs.
“When an Afghan National Policeman wants to drink a cup of tea, they'll see this message, that we should not recruit kids under 18.”
International law, the Afghan constitution and Islamic Sharia law all state clearly that children should not be used in combat, but part of the problem lies in the fact that many births go unregistered, so it's often hard to establish an Afghan's true age.
“Many children have falsified ID cards to join the ANP and we've given 150 people training on how to assess that somebody is not yet eighteen even though his ID card says so.”
Meanwhile, the ANP in Kabul remain vigilant. Despite some high-profile attacks like the recent one on the US embassy, General Salangi claims the police are able to stop around 90% of attacks on the capital. But when it comes to children, he says the solution is education.
“They have to guide the youths of Afghanistan to education and into schools and not use them as suicide bombers. Firstly this kid will lose his life and secondly his family will be devastated. And the majority of our people will be also injured, killed and then their family, friends and relative will be hurt too.”
Year of Production: 2011
Country: United States