Want to be a suicide bomber when you grow up? Why wait? The Taliban is now recruiting kids as young as 5 to fight. Some are being trained for suicide missions.
Last week a teenager between the ages of 12 and 14 blew himself up in a busy square, killing at least 40 people. Earlier this year, a 6-year-old approached a group of American soldiers wearing a suicide vest armed with explosives. The boy could not remember what he was supposed to do with the bombs, and was disarmed.
It’s hard to imagine being in such a desperate situation that you’d want to die for your cause before even hitting puberty. In Frontline‘s recent documentary, Children of the Taliban, one boy tells the filmmakers he’s eager to carry out a suicide mission. Just as soon as his father says its OK.
One hopes that permission won’t be forthcoming. Presumably even in a war zone no one wants to see their child die.
In addition to the extreme poverty many Afghans experience, young children are often educated in madrassahs where the teachers are quite transparent about their intentions: they are preparing these children to fight, and probably die, in a religious war.
Some of the heavily armed kids Frontline interviewed also expressed a desire for revenge on the American soldiers who’ve killed their cousins and friends. So much for being greeted as liberators.
It’s important to remember that even those vengeful tots are still children. They may believe what their elders have taught them about warfare, suicide bombings and the heavenly bliss that awaits the martyr. But they are still developing, and not able to think and judge for themselves in the way adults theoretically can.
Child soldiers are also subject to special protections under international law, and are treated as victims of war crimes.
Interested in learning more or helping to stop this particularly putrescent form of child abuse? Visit the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers