October 24, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Using Minors to Suppress Protests in Iran

October 24, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Using Minors to Suppress Protests in Iran

Latest Developments

Iran is reportedly using minors to crush protests in Iran. In recent weeks, photos have emerged showing children wearing unforms of the Basij militia, a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Alongside the uniformed police stood many more plainclothes Basiji units. Some of them were clearly minors,” one Iranian protester reported. International law prohibits the recruitment or use of children in hostilities. Two U.S. laws penalize foreign countries and persons who recruit or use children in hostilities.

Expert Analysis

“Iran’s reported use of children to help crush anti-regime protests underscores the regime’s horrific disregard for human rights. The Biden administration should fully implement U.S. laws that require the U.S. government to spotlight and penalize any such violations.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

Use of Child Soldiers a Longstanding Battlefield Practice

The Iranian government, Iranian proxies, and IRGC clients have long used child soldiers against their adversaries. The Houthis in Yemen, for example, have recruited thousands of children, some as young as 10, in their fight against the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition. In Gaza, some 50,000 children registered last year for an Iranian-backed, Hamas-run child-soldier training camp, where they received religious indoctrination and “security” training. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has recruited child soldiers for its fight in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime.

Iran May Be Violating International Law

If the reports are correct that Iran is using children to crack down on protests, Tehran is in violation of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran joined in 1994, and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, which Iran joined in 2002. The Rights of the Child treaty prohibits any recruitment for, and any use in, hostilities of persons under 15. The Worst Forms of Child Labour treaty prohibits forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict of persons under 18.

The United Nations, including its special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, should investigate Iran’s alleged violations of these treaties.

U.S. Should Name and Penalize Iranian Officials Recruiting or Using Child Soldiers

The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 imposes penalties, including denial of entry into the United States, on any foreign person who has engaged in the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The U.S. should name and penalize the relevant Iranian officials. Such a step would send an important message to Iran’s anti-regime protesters that the U.S. supports them and is penalizing their Iranian abusers.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 requires the U.S. to list annually in its Trafficking in Persons report those foreign governments that recruit or use child soldiers. The State Department included Iran in the 2022 list. The act also requires the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report to describe such recruitment or use of child soldiers. However, the 2021 Human Rights Report on Iran, published in April 2022, included very little information on this abhorrent practice.

Related Analysis

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Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Sanctions