Monday, March 14, 2011

Iran 'using child soldiers' to suppress Tehran protests

Armed children as young as 14 are said to have been deployed alongside riot police

Iranian protesters attending an anti-government protest in Tehran A bin blazes behind Iranian protesters at an anti-government protest in Tehran last month. Photograph: AP

Iran's Islamic regime is using "child soldiers" to suppress anti-government demonstrations, a tactic that could breach international law forbidding the use of underage combatants, human rights activists have told the Observer.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says troops aged between 14 and 16 have been armed with batons, clubs and air guns and ordered to attack demonstrators who have tried to gather in Tehran. The youths – apparently recruited from rural areas – are being deployed in regular riot police roles and comprise up to one-third of the total force, according to witnesses.

One middle-aged woman, who said she was attacked by the youths, reported that some were as young as 12 and were possibly prepubescent. They had rural accents, which indicated they had been brought in from villages far from Tehran, she said.

Some told her they had been attracted by the promise of chelo kebab dinners, one of Iran's national dishes.

"It's really a violation of international law. It's no different than child soldiers, which is the custom in many zones of conflict," said Hadi Ghaemi, the campaign's executive director. "They are being recruited into being part of the conflict and armed for it."

The UN convention on the rights of the child requires states to take "all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities".

Read More at Guardian UK

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