Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria.
“Afghan children as young as 14 have fought in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict. Under international law,” the report said. “Recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.”
The Deputy Spokesman for Foreign Ministry, Sebghatullah Ahmadi confirmed the Human Rights Watch report and said: “We are concerned in regard and we urge Iran to prevent and stop sending Afghan refugees to Syria war, whether it is based on voluntary or by force.”
The Middle East Director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson also called on Iran to “immediately end the recruitment of child soldiers and bring back any Afghan children it has sent to fight in Syria.”
“Rather than preying on vulnerable immigrant and refugee children, the Iranian authorities should protect all children and hold those responsible for recruiting Afghan children to account,” Whitson said.
The UN should investigate child recruitment by the IRGC, and the secretary-general should consider adding the organization to his annual list of perpetrators of violations against children based on evidence of child recruitment, HRW said.
“Iran should be improving protections for Afghan refugee children, not leaving them vulnerable to unscrupulous recruiting agents,” she said. “Iran should immediately ratify the Optional Protocol and ensure that Afghan children are not being recruited to fight in Syria.”
The call comes as roughly three million Afghans live in Iran. Most settled there after fleeing war and conflict in their homeland. Many Afghans in Iran lack basic rights and live without a formal status.
By Shakib Mahmud and Bayes Hayat.